Detention center

Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay (right) talks with detention center educator Alicia Buckhanan about the vote to close the facility earlier this week. Clay opposed the decision to close the facility, saying "many repressions had not been addressed" in letter to the county supervisors.

BISBEE — Though objections were made by the county school superintendent and the county sheriff, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors followed through with its plan to end the housing of juveniles in the county detention center on Tuesday.

Following the unanimous approval of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) by Supervisors Tom Borer, Ann English and Peggy Judd during Tuesday’s meeting, juveniles who are remanded by county judges into care will be transported to a 32-bed Santa Cruz County (SCC) facility beginning Jan.1, 2021.

Deputy Civil County Attorney Britt Hanson, who drafted the IGA, went over the agreement which will cost the county approximately $675,000 a year through June 30, 2023. The annual amount could change depending on expenses for routine medical costs. Non–routine costs for hospitalization or surgery would fall to Cochise County.

In addition, the county will incur costs for transporting the juveniles to and from the Santa Cruz County facility for court appearances. The juveniles would still be served by Cochise County probation officers.

John Schow, the county court administrator, said the medical costs would only be incurred if the child was uninsured or underinsured. Arizona Cost Containment System covers many children in the state. He also pointed out there are other counties who have agreements to serve each other’s juveniles and counties around the country are combining juvenile facilities.

The IGA with Santa Cruz County was discussed during past budget hearings and at length during a few work sessions. The move to Santa Cruz County was first recommended by Presiding Superior Court Judge James Conlogue, according to Borer.

However, county School Superintendent Jacqui Clay did not think it was a good idea, was done hastily and should have included her input, which she stated in a letter to the supervisors which Borer read. She stated “many repercussions had not been addressed” or had been “refused to be addressed.”

At a work session between Santa Cruz and Cochise County officials and staff, Clay voiced her concerns about the continuing education of detainees and questioned their transition back to the Cochise County school system. Clay also pointed out that the agreement did not include any reference to education.

In the brief time allotted Tuesday, she reiterated her objections, saying parents should have been consulted and insisted she should have been included all in the discussions.

“This shouldn’t be done for financial reasons. This will be a hardship on parents with no transportation,” she said.

English, who said she received a number of emails from disgruntled citizens, said, “I am frustrated with the actions of the Cochise County School Superintendent regarding this juvenile detention reorganization. I want to state the court’s and the Board of Supervisors’ primary responsibility is to provide the best care for the incarcerated youth.”

She then listed a number of positive results including the juveniles would be housed in a better facility with 24-hour medical care and “closer access to quality health care professionals” when needed.

English also said although the county school superintendent is supposed to offer educational services to juveniles in detention, for the past six months Clay has only been providing them at the jail.

She added, “The school superintendent from SCC will follow all the guidelines for these kids as he has done for all of SCC. The transition to a school back in Cochise County will be seamless. They will be served better and that is our first priority.”

“We put the agreement together, but it was the presiding judge who made the decision on this. All across the state, counties are dropping this as they have fewer juveniles in detention facilities. We have an old facility. Santa Cruz County has a brand new facility. They have room and are willing to share we us. This is a good arrangement.”

In response to Clay’s objections, Judd said, “We had work sessions and you were there. You were at the table as much as I was. I remember asking for your input. I think this is a great partnership. I find it odd you bring up cost. That’s not the reason we’re doing this. We’re sending the kids to a better facility.“

Judd also pointed out technology existed via the internet for juveniles and their families to remain in contact with each other and that the county could help families in this way.

Sheriff Mark Dannels stated he did not have the extra transportation costs built into his 2020-2021 budget and now would have to refigure deputy time for the drive to and from SCC. Last year, transportation cost $7,000.

“I’m concerned with that,” added Dannels. “It would have been nice to have that dialogue.”

Letters from the public were read by Borer from Thomas Reardon and Salina Llamas with the Douglas Education Partnership Council who also voiced concern for the children being detained so far from home.