Willcox jail closure forces officers to drive hours away for jail bookings
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The jail in Willcox is one of three in Cochise County. It closed more than three weeks ago after staff members became sick with COVID.
Local agencies, like the Willcox Police Department, must bring people to the main jail in Bisbee.
“The biggest impact we have is the time management because we are sending an officer an hour and a half both directions so three hours roundtrip to book someone in the jail,” said Willcox Police Chief Dale Hadfield.
He’s made the trek himself and said his department made three trips to Bisbee in a single day last week. Kenneth Bradshaw, a jail commander at the Bisbee facility, said he’s aware of the inconvenience.
“We are sensitive to the time we take an officer off the street in order to book somebody into jail,” he said.
The Wilcox jail has six employees with a capacity of 16 beds for inmates. Just one staff member’s absences makes a big difference on everyone inside.
“In this jail they have one hour of rec time when they’re in long-term and when they don’t have the proper amount of detention officers, they’re locked down 24 hours a day,” he said. “It takes two officers to have someone come out of their cell so showers are out.”
He said it’s better for the safety and wellbeing of staff and inmates to have the facility closed for now. Fortunately, he doesn’t feel the closure is having a negative impact to response times within Willcox.
“We will never leave the city without an officer dedicated to calls,” Hadfield said.
The sheriffs department says the jail in Willcox closed multiple times over the past year due to staffing issues caused by COVID 19. Discussions for when the jail might reopen are underway but a future date hasn’t been set.
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