A Night In The Slammer, But All For A Good Cause


Camille Levee is fingerprinted by Gila County Deputy Waddell as part of the “Spend a Night in Jail” benefit for domestic violence agencies hosted by Sheriff John Armer.

Camille Levee is fingerprinted by Gila County Deputy Waddell as part of the “Spend a Night in Jail” benefit for domestic violence agencies hosted by Sheriff John Armer. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Editor’s note: The director of Payson’s Time Out battered women’s shelter offered this account of her night in jail on Friday, part of an effort to help raise money to combat domestic violence — one of the most frequent and serious crimes and most dangerous calls facing Payson Police and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.

The skies were dark, thunder boomed and the gray walls with barbed wire forbidding: A deep breath and on I went to booking.

I expected the fingerprinting, the photo and all of the paperwork and questions. But I didn’t realize my purse wouldn’t fit in the plastic sack given to me for the valuables and the inventory process took longer than I expected.

But I signed away my personal stuff and moved on to all of the other questions (a notebook full).

Thank heavens I had no priors, serious offenses or outstanding warrants; I didn’t need a strip search — just a pat down. (And I hadn’t even had a trial yet!!) I signed for the Inmate Handbook, and promised to pay $5 if I didn’t return it undamaged.

Well, I was at least in time for supper, so I wouldn’t just get a sack lunch. The plastic tray held food still warm — fish and fries, mixed veggies, cornbread and cookies. (I learned that cookies were wonderful trades with other inmates.) The iced tea was cold — which was good since the cells were hot and humid, and crowded.

Oh, there wasn’t room in the 28-bed women’s wing for me, so I would be one of the first in the new wings — each containing 20 bunks, high ceilings, semi-private bathroom facilities and sparkling white walls. Of course, all of the furniture was bolted down and the top bunks a bit high for me, so they brought a stool.

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John Armer explains some of the intricacies of handling prisoners and keeping the staff, inmates and visitors safe.

Lights out at 9 p.m. — except for the one light on all night. Good thing I can sleep through anything.

But up at 5:30 a.m.? That’s a bit late for me, so I opted not to stay.

Yes, that’s right, I walked out into the night and drove home to sleep in my own bed.

I was part of the group who participated in Sheriff John Armer’s “Spend a Night in Jail,” a benefit for domestic violence agencies. And I was in some great company, with Claudia Armer and County Attorney Daisy Flores.

Sgt. Christine Duarte, the jail commander, the captains from Payson County Jail, and a host of other staff were on hand to answer all of our questions, give us a snapshot of statistics and information, and make us feel welcome.

There have been no inmate deaths; 47 percent of inmates are booked in from Payson; in the last 5 years, 125 inmates received their GED. That last fact alone demonstrates that prisoners returned to freedom have a good chance of success.

So it wasn’t just us——it was evident from the rest of our tour that inmates are treated with respect and courtesy, and sensitivity. And we all know that human beings respond to the way they are treated.

It starts at the top —- with the sheriff and the jail commander.

So all was quiet when we did our walk throughs, and as we watched on the latest monitoring technology.

Thank you, Sheriff Armer, for a job well done! You and Claudia deserve some time off for “good behavior.” Enjoy retirement!

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