County's Jail Now Up To U.S. Standards

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Two years of changes within the Gila County jail system has led the county to an agreement of compliance with the federal government over jail operations.

The county is settling allegations that the jail failed to provide basic care and adequate conditions for inmates.

"The Department of Justice comes in and does reviews of county jails," said Capt. Bill Blank of the Gila County Sheriff's Department. "We were found about 2 1/2 years ago of being deficient in a lot of different things. One was staffing. There were some issues such as improving sump pumps and putting in new kitchens, a new roof."

The agreement resolves allegations that jail officials violated inmates' constitutional rights by not providing enough guards, security, inmate supervision, medical care and food service.

The jail was built about 22 years ago, Blank said. It was designed to house 168 prisoners, but the average census runs about 160, including federal prisoners.

"We have not been allowed to hold federal prisoners since the Department of Justice came in," he said. Without the federal prisoners, the average daily census is about 100.

Blank said the county, after reviewing the deficiencies, began a two-year campaign to clean up the physical condition and operations of the jail system.

By adhering to some of the conditions, county taxpayers will actually save a little in the long run.

When the Globe jail added its own kitchen to cook meals for county inmates, the cost-per-meal went from about $5 to around $1.68, according to Undersheriff Harry Cain. Meals are prepared in Globe, and shipped to Payson in TV-dinner-style containers, which are then stored and reheated in Payson.

"I'd say we're about 95 percent complete with the changes," the captain said.

"We're proud of the place, and certainly don't have anything to hide. We'd welcome anyone from the community to come down and take a look around."

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