#JusticeinPimaCounty: Week 43
Unlike in many parts of the country, Arizona’s County Attorneys’ offices, including PCAO, are made up of both Criminal and Civil divisions. A District Attorney, the title we’re all more familiar with, is responsible only for the criminal prosecutions of a city. The County Attorney, however, is truly the People’s Attorney, because the Criminal Division protects public safety, while our Civil Division represents the County itself, the County Departments, the very air we breathe, and the water we drink.
In order to run both operations well, our leadership team, along with some of the most brilliant legal minds in the State, carefully analyze issues that bring both sides of the house together on a topic. And this week, that topic was the great sadness of people dying inside the walls of the Pima County Jail.
Because we are led by our Core Values of accessibility and accountability, we listen when people want to talk to us. Alongside our Criminal Chief Dan South, our Civil Chief Sam Brown, and our Chief of Detectives Keith St. John, I met personally with three families and their attorneys, one at a time, who each lost a son this year while in custody. And we did so in communication with Sheriff Nanos, who shares in the concern.
With each family, we carefully explained that, should a civil suit be filed against the County, it will come to Sam as our Chief Civil Deputy, whose job it is to defend the County and its departments. But that fact can’t separate these families from me. I explained that I am here to serve all of Pima County, especially the most vulnerable in our community, which, by definition, would be people who are incarcerated. Families like these will always have access to me, so they can inform me. They are such decent people, quietly sharing their loss, sharing photos, shedding tears. A lot of tears.
Last week, along with our data administrator, Danny Lesandrini, and Community Protection Bureau intelligence analyst, Sean Rambaran (pictured), we spent two full days reviewing the entire jail population to determine those for whom there is insufficient reason for continued custody. Where appropriate, we are stipulating to releases we have control over, and we are sending hundreds of examples of probation holds to our partners who have authority over those populations of people.
This week, we listened. Losing a child is the unnatural order of events: a terrible trauma. It took great strength to meet with us, and I am grateful. We take the information, and we help with both accountability and communication. A “critical incident review” will shed light for these families.
To be continued,