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Pima County Sheriff’s Department facing prison staff shortage

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 10:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Staffing shortages at the Pima County Jail could get a lot worse.

In less than a month, a vaccine mandate for the county goes into effect, which could lead to terminations for nearly half the staff.

“About 158 of the 371 have not been vaccinated,” said Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos. “If I lost 158 officers today, would it hurt. Sure it would would it make things tough and give us some challenges to overcome absolutely, could we do it, yes.”

But, Thomas Frazier, a current corrections sergeant says otherwise.

“We can not effectively run the facility at the low staffing levels we are and def cant run it minus 150 officers its dangerous.” said Frazier.

Sheriff Nanos is discussing a range of contingency plans with the Pima County Board of Supervisors to help alleviate some of the pressure.

“Do I have 70 inmates for one corrections officer or do I have 140 inmates for one corrections officer,” said Nanos. “Do I go to 12-hour shifts versus 8 hours, do I pay more overtime do I bring deputy’s into work the jail, there’s a number of options”

According to a memo from the chief deputy county administrator to the board of supervisors, reducing the jail population safely is under consideration.

“I think it would be very scary and it would be a disservice to the citizens of Pima County to let people out of jail in such numbers that would be necessary to allow that facility to run on half of or less than half of the current work force,” said Frazier.

Sheriff Nanos says he doesn’t have the authority to release inmates. It is up to the courts.

“The community just needs to know that this sheriff will never, ever put them in danger,” said Nanos. “There will never be a decision I make that puts out community in danger.”

Either way a staffing shortage could cause further burnout.

“There are a number of fully vaccinate individuals that will be able to keep their job that are planning on leaving if we lose half the work force,” said Frazier. “It will be an outright unsafe environment.”

Sheriff Nanos tells us his department will do the best with the resources they have. The vaccine mandate for employees who work with vulnerable populations goes into effect in less than a month: Jan. 1.

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