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Pima County Sheriff: Jail has structural issues caused by neglect

Two women’s recreation areas have been closed
Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 10:33 AM MST|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 11:25 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Adult Detention Complex is showing signs of neglect and age.

Built 40 years ago, some parts of the jail have deteriorated to the point they may have become unsafe.

The women noticed concrete falling from the support beams in their recreation area so Sheriff Chris Nanos called in an engineer.

“This whole steel structure could collapse,” Nanos said the engineer told him. “He said you’ve got to shut this down.”

An inspection of a second women’s recreation area found the same problems and it was shut down also. That’s left 143 inmates with no place for recreation.

It also inspired Nanos and his staff to take a cursory look at the jail searching for other issues. It didn’t take much searching.

  • Sandbags were used to try to keep rainwater from flowing inside a door and down the hallway. It didn’t work and the hallway wall is beginning to sink.
  • The railings for the second-floor balconies have rusted to the point where they are unstable and prone to possible collapse.
  • Floors in the women’s shower and restroom are buckling and tiles are missing.
  • Mold has been found growing in the shower stalls and the toilets are stained green.
  • The kitchen has several pools of standing water that won’t drain.
  • Paint has worn off walls throughout the jail leaving unsightly discolorations.
  • Concrete and stucco have chipped away throughout leaving gaping holes in floors and walls.
  • Concrete patches in the kitchen area make it nearly impossible for food carts to roll on the surfaces.
  • The facility is plagued with leaky faucets and showers which operate with only a trickle of water.

Those are just some of the most visible issues KOLD News 13′s Bud Foster saw as he toured the facility with Nanos.

He said neglect and lack of upkeep have put the safety of both workers and inmates at risk.

“We need to provide an environment that’s not just safe for my staff,” he said. “But safe for those inmates we have in custody.”

Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said it must become a priority for the board “sooner rather than later.”

She said the county is “legally and constitutionally” obligated to maintain the jail so the money needs to be found to bring it up to standards.

Since the county has already approved its tentative budget, it’s likely money will need to be moved around to pay for the maintenance.

The cost won’t be determined until facilities management can inspect the facility to see whether most of the issues are cosmetic and in need of a quick fix or whether the issues are structural and need more expensive maintenance.

“The neglect didn’t happen overnight,” Nanos said. “This has been years of neglect.”

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