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Saturday, November 28, 2020

FAQs

Isn’t the “Criminal Justice Center” just a jail?

No, it is much more than just a place for detention. The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center is designed to implement the Yavapai model of criminal justice reforms. The Criminal Justice Center features the unique “Connections Center,” connecting those released from jail and from inpatient mental health evaluations with housing, employment, medical help, counseling, and transportation. Many studies on incarceration and jail recidivism conducted nationwide have found that providing these services significantly decrease the likelihood that the released individual return to jail or mental health hospitalization.

The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center also houses an on-site behavioral health evaluation facility. By law, the County must provide mental health evaluation services (commonly known as “Title 36” evaluations). Placing the Title 36 evaluation facility adjacent to the Connections Center allows individuals leaving the Title 36 process to access services through the Connections Center, supporting their successful return to the community.

Finally, the Criminal Justice Center features a booking and holding facility directly connected to two fully equipped courtrooms of the Superior Court. This allows the Sheriff to quickly and securely move individuals from the holding facility for court appearances.

Is the Criminal Justice Center really necessary?

Yes! In 2015 the County commissioned a study of its jail system. Chinn Planning, a nationally recognized jail system consultant firm, conducted the study and issued a report in 2016. The Chinn Report, available HERE, recommends construction of the Criminal Justice Center in the Prescott area. The Board, after considering the Chinn report, decided to move forward with the Criminal Justice Center for the following reasons:

To keep Prescott area cities and towns safe. The jail is in Camp Verde. It is up to the arresting agency to transport an arrestee to Camp Verde when an arrest is made in western Yavapai County. Western Yavapai County includes Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley and the unincorporated areas surrounding these municipalities. The police departments for Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley, and the Sheriff’s deputies protecting unincorporated regions in western Yavapai County lose 20% to 50% of their on-duty law enforcement protection for up to 4 hours while the arresting officer transports the arrestee to Camp Verde.

To keep downtown Prescott safe. Criminal court proceedings occur every business day in downtown Prescott, and every business day dozens of inmates take the long ride from Camp Verde to downtown Prescott. Once in Prescott the inmates are marched, shackled and chained together, openly through the public park at the center of Prescott (Courthouse Plaza, the “crown jewel” of Yavapai County) to go to court. Chinn Planning expressed serious concern at this practice, noting how obviously unsafe it is to have large numbers of inmates outside the confines of a secure structure. Prescott’s downtown courthouse originally housed the jail as well the court because inmates could be taken easily, quickly, and safely from jail to court without leaving the building. The new Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center is designed to reestablish the commonsense design of jails and courts in the same building, freeing Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza from the clatter of shackles and chains.

To save money now. Yavapai County spends $2 million each year in fuel, equipment, and extra manpower transporting thousands of inmates to-and-from Camp Verde. The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center in Prescott will save taxpayers this wasted money.

To save money in the long term. The Camp Verde jail is overcrowded. Yavapai County has faced jail overcrowding issues before. In 1997, a US Department of Justice investigation of Yavapai County found that the Gurley St. jail was severely overcrowded, resulting in several constitutional violations of inmate rights. The federal government threatened to take over Yavapai County jails, build new ones, and force Yavapai County to pay the bill. Overcrowding in the Camp Verde jail, if not addressed now, could easily lead to another Department of Justice investigation. Addressing our overcrowded Camp Verde jail now saves us money in the long run.

Is the Camp Verde jail overcrowded?

The Camp Verde jail averaged 521 inmates per day in 2019 and is over capacity. The Camp Verde jail contains 644 beds, but because inmates must be “classified” not all beds can be used at once. Jails must “classify” inmates for the protection of the inmates and staff. For example, males and females must be segregated into different housing units. Members of different gangs cannot be housed together because they are often violent toward one another. Extremely violent individuals must be segregated, as well as the weak, sick, and mentally ill. “Classification” typically reduces the number of available jail beds by 20%-25%. With classification, the Camp Verde jail holds approximately 500 inmates. The daily average population for the Camp Verde jail in 2019 was approximately 521, but in the summer, it is not unusual for daily population to top 560 each day. The daily population is expected to continue to grow as Yavapai County grows, creating the need for another jail facility.

Isn’t the Camp Verde jail just full of people arrested for simple marijuana possession?

No. Over 90% of the people in the Camp Verde jail are arrested for dangerous or significant felonies. Those charged only with simple marijuana possession are rarely booked, and when they are, are almost always released within 24 hours.

Isn’t the Camp Verde jail full of federal prisoners or immigrants?

No. Virtually all the inmates in Yavapai County are held on charges from Yavapai County, the county’s municipalities, or the county’s Indian tribes.

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