From what and when an inmate eats to where they sleep, standards and guidelines regulate almost everything in Arizona’s jails.
In Arizona, not all jails follow the same rules and this can lead to problems, specifically lawsuits if an inmate feels their rights are not met.
For the last year, Jail Commander Jim Eskew and other members of the Arizona Detention Association Review Board have been crafting voluntary jail standards for all Arizona jails.
“We are at the point now where everything is litigated,” he said.
“It is becoming more of a necessity to have policies and procedures in place.”
While Arizona continues to work on its standards, Eskew has been asked to create similar standards for more than 3,300 jails across the U.S.
Eskew and three sheriffs, four legal advisers and another jail commander have been invited to participate on a National Sheriff’s Association work group to form a generic set of jail guidelines for voluntary use by National Sheriff Association (NSA) members.
NSA is the largest association for law enforcement professionals in the U.S.
After managing both of Gila County’s jails for the last 18 years, Eskew was chosen for the group for his expertise in management, legal counsel and operations.
The work group will review and revise 590 jail standards during the next seven months under the leadership of group chair and attorney Gary DeLand.
“Jail standards will consist of the custody, care and treatment of inmates, the construction, equipment, maintenance and operation of jail facilities and programs of rehabilitation, education and recreation for inmates confined in county and municipal jail facilities under its jurisdiction,” Eskew said.
The standards Eskew revises will take effect nationally and at the Payson and Globe jails.
On a given day, the Payson jail houses a dozen inmates and the Globe jail, 140. For years, Eskew has driven between the two jails on almost a daily basis.
Eskew said he could not have risen to where he is today without the encouragement of Gila County Sheriff John R. Armer and the entire detentions staff.
To show his thanks, last year, Eskew erected signs inside both jails that read, “The detention officers who work in this Gila County Detention Center represent the state of Arizona’s finest and Sheriff John R. Armer and Detention Major James Eskew are proud to be represented by such outstanding professional, ethical and dedicated men and woman.”
Gila County Sheriff John R. Armer said he is proud Eskew is representing the Gila County Sheriff’s Office on a national level.
“The entire Gila County Sheriff’s Office wishes to extend congratulations for the national recognition of his hard work and expertise by the National Sheriff’s Association,” Armer said in a press release.
Besides working on jail standards, Eskew is actively campaigning to expand the Globe jail facility, which is badly overcrowded.
In October 2007, he tried to get funding to build a new jail, but voters defeated that idea. With the option of a new facility gone, Eskew is working to expand the main jail.
“We are booking people at a fantastic rate,” he said.
Globe’s 152 beds are always filled and on the women’s side, the 18 beds available are normally filled with 33 women, who often have to sleep on the floor and cots. Construction is under way on the women’s side to upgrade to 40 beds.
The jails fill up, especially on the weekends, when people flock to Gila County for recreation purposes, Eskew explained.
“There is a constant influx of traffic because of the county’s location,” he said. “I refer to it as the Coney Island of Arizona.”