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MCSO Defends Treatment Of Detainees In Federal Court

Federal Courthouse
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
file | staff
The Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.

Judge Neil Wake joked at the beginning of the hearing that it was his goal to resolve Graves vs. Arpaio before he dies. He’s been presiding over the case since 2008. But it stretches all the way back to 1977, when a class of pre-trial detainees sued over the conditions in Maricopa County jails.

At issue on Wednesday was a motion from the American Civil Liberties Union, a plaintiff on the case, on the treatment of seriously mentally ill detainees.

ACLU senior staff counsel Eric Balaban said the Sheriff’s Office should be required to transfer those inmates to a psychiatric hospital. “If you keep seriously mentally ill men and women at the jail under those conditions, they will unnecessarily suffer," Balaban said. "They’ll be a danger to themselves and others.”

The county argued it’s in compliance with previous court orders and that its mental health-care system within the Lower Buckeye Jail is adequate. Judge Wake ordered an additional three-month monitoring period beginning in April to determine whether or not that’s the case.

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.