I urge all families of prisoners and of free persons with serious mental illness to contact your local papers and county supervisors and complain about that proposal before it's implemented, lest jails begin to slack off on their suicide prevention programs to save money next. The Arizona Association of Counties has a good link to elected officials from each county - use it to express your disgust for that proposal. Their "advocacy toolbox" is also useful and provides links to contact your state legislators: please ask that they not allow counties to opt out on their responsibility to seriously mentally ill and suicidal prisoners.
You may also contact the AACo Executive Director, Nicole Stickler, at email@example.com. Her phone is 252-6563 ext 225.
The AACo's snail mail address is:
Phoenix, AZ 85009
By JAYNE HANSON
Monday, November 21, 2011
Arizona county officials locked down their collective opposition last week during the Arizona Association of Counties Conference in regard to the state’s looming inmate shift set for 2012.The measure has Mohave County readying to swallow $2 million in additional costs when Arizona Department of Corrections shifts state prisoners back into county jails, or charges counties a service fee to retain prisoners in state facilities.
During a four-day AACo conference in Scottsdale, about 200 county government officials from Arizona’s 15 counties, and business leaders, gathered to identify and organize a game plan to present to Arizona state legislators. Repealing the inmate cost-shift was the big issue at hand, said one local county government official.
“That has the biggest effect on us,” said Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, R-Dist. 3, on Sunday. “Because of the cost shifting it will affect all departments. In Mohave County, it is $2 million (anticipated costs). We now have to adjust our budget. We’ll have to do more cuts or find $2 million in revenue.”
According to a press release from Johnson’s office, Johnson was elected second-vice chairman to AACo during the conference. And Mohave County Treasurer Melissa Havatone was elected president of Arizona Treasurers Association, which is an AACo affiliate.
Other issues identified for the platform by Arizona county officials include 2012 election measures centering on all-mail ballots and in-full reimbursement of election costs to counties in the collective amount of $5 million to $7 million.
Pressure to implement a declaration to release counties of liability pertaining to inmate suicide, which Johnson said is showing an increasing trend in county jails across the state, also was an issued identified by AACo.
The group also plans to pressure Arizona legislators to address state’s “substantial” cutbacks on mental health services for inmates, Johnson said. The cuts affect availability of medications, therapy and counseling and increase the number of mentally ill inmates within county jails.
Required Board of Health valuation review classes also were nixed by AACo this year with a request to lift the requirement and create training that is at the county level and specific to each county.
Also along the lines of property valuations are AACo proposals pertaining to county assessors to correct errors in county tax rolls and better define regulations to do so, such as a designated time frame.
AACo members also are pushing to better clarify the definition of secondary and primary residence classification linked to new laws that eliminate specific property tax breaks to secondary home property owners in Arizona. The notification process involved with the new law and procedures to remedy incorrect property classifications.
You may contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMMENT LEFT BY AZ PRISON WATCH:
"The most responsible way to reduce liability costs for jail suicides is the implement evidence-based programs and procedures for working with high-risk prisoners...not to try to be excused from responsibility for them altogether. Especially in Arizona, where we push our seriously mentally ill citizens behind bars at 9x the rate we hospitalize them, our county jails have a high burden of responsibility to keep them safe. If you don't want to pay for incarcerating them dying in your care, then support diversion programs and sentencing reforms for the mentally ill."