Pima County, AZ

Summary

A major commercial and academic hub, Pima County is home to Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona. The county is approximately 9,200 square miles, has the second largest population of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas of the United States. Its population, which has nearly tripled since 1970 and is projected to reach 1.4 million by 2041, is almost one third Hispanic.

Pima County leadership has engaged in a series of successful collaborations in pursuit of local justice reform, such as the creation of a Crisis Response Center and Behavioral Health Pavilion to provide integrated care to those experiencing behavioral health crises and help them avoid unnecessary incarceration, as well as a Sheriff’s and Tucson Police Department’s Mental Health Support Team to coordinate responses with Pima County Behavioral Health and other law enforcement agencies. In addition, the county has spearheaded jail re-entry strategies and instituted programs to assess a defendant’s risk to reoffend and target specific interventions for medium-to-high-risk inmates. To continue building on past reform efforts, Pima County was awarded $1.8 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2019 to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.

The county will seek to safely reduce its jail population through the creation of a Probation Jail Reduction Committee to reduce the over-reliance of jail sanctions within the post-sentence supervision population. Efforts include the elimination of the use of automatic holds, issuing fewer and shorter coterminous sentences, and lowering the number of petitions to revoke.  Additionally, a multi-disciplinary City/County committee including the courts, prosecution, defense, pretrial, and probation will launch a Jail Population Review Committee to identify misdemeanants and non-violent felony inmates held on pretrial or probation status who may be eligible for early release considerations.

Pima County’s 33-member Community Collaborative, impaneled in 2016, will continue to help guide its jail reduction strategies and provide additional outreach and education opportunities. The Collaborative members, who have broad experience with the criminal justice system, include formerly incarcerated men and women, family members impacted by incarceration, victim advocates, judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, and tribal representatives.

  • More than 80 percent of inmates in the jail are typically in pretrial status.
  • Native Americans make up only 2.4 percent of the county’s population, but represent 6.75 percent of those held in jail prior to trial on misdemeanor and low-level felony charges, and 8 percent of those held in jail on failure to appear charges.
  • Mental illness and substance abuse affect an estimated 60 percent of the jail population.
  • Creating a Jail Population Review Committee responsible for assessing the custody status of individuals at the Pima County Adult Detention Complex and providing recommendations for early release considerations.
  • Reducing the over-reliance of jail sanctions with probationers that are inconsistent with evidence-based practices.
  • Expanding law enforcement pre-arrest deflection programs to include drug misuse.
  • Expanding Pretrial Services’ mental health and substance abuse specialty caseload supervision
  • Supported with an additional $1.8 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Pima County aims to safely reduce its jail population to a 1,574 average daily population over the next two years.

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