Detention Mounts

County jails are understaffed, but there seems to be plenty of money for the sheriff's pet projects

"The best they ever got it to was a month," Jarvi says. He was surprised that current records show that inmates are now waiting up to six months to be seen. "That's really serious," he says.

Health care in the jails is administered by Correctional Health Services, a county department headed by Dr. Gale Steinhauser. When New Times attempted to show Steinhauser the records, she refused to look at them, saying only "No comment."

The sick-call documents suggest that Arpaio and CHS have ignored a liability problem in the jails. More than 800 lawsuits have been filed by inmates during Arpaio's tenure. According to a list prepared by the sheriff's office and included in court records, more than 170 of those lawsuits persist. Already, the county is shelling out large sums of money to defend the cases. Thirty-one of them are being handled by private law firms; the Scott Norberg case cost taxpayers $1 million just in attorney fees plus $8.25 million in settlement costs.

Despite the backlog of inmate suits, none had come to trial until last week. On Thursday, a jury awarded former inmate Timothy Griffin $1.5 million after it found that the county had negligently handled Griffin's medical needs.

Griffin had been jailed on October 5, 1994, for driving with a suspended license (one of the the most common reasons citizens are taken to the county's jail). Griffin's license had been suspended because he had failed to pay for license tags.

On October 7, Griffin complained of severe pain and told physician's assistant Rita Bearface that he had a history of ulcers and that the pain was so intense he thought he might have a perforated ulcer, a potentially life-threatening condition. Bearface prescribed him Maalox and Zantac without referring Griffin to a physician. She also didn't take Griffin's temperature or pulse or order any blood tests. After Bearface's exam, a nurse told Griffin to "quit acting so dramatic."

Fifteen hours later, on the morning of October 8, another physician's assistant realized that Griffin needed surgery and ordered that he be taken to the Maricopa Medical Center. It was another two hours before Griffin was taken to the hospital, where he underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer and peritonitis.

Griffin's attorneys called expert witnesses who testified that Griffin went on to endure four additional surgeries--and lived several months with an open wound in his abdomen--because of the delays in jail.

A 1996 Department of Justice investigation found that inmates were subject to an unconstitutional mix of excessive force and negligent medical care in Maricopa County. Since that time, the Department of Justice and the county have tried to hammer out a settlement to improve the medical care in the jails. Sources tell New Times that the settlement is finished but is being held up by procedural delays.

Meanwhile, Arpaio finds plenty of taxpayer cash to spend on other things, some aimed at furthering his political position. Other expenditures are more bizarre. For example, Shannon Koppinger, estranged wife of deputy Mark Koppinger, told New Times recently about a five-man team of deputies in Arpaio's notorious enforcement support division that is engaged in tracking down cat killers and political enemies of the sheriff.

Gerberry says that he and the employees he represents are particularly angered by a recent hire made by Arpaio. Last fall, Gerberry complained to Arpaio and the Board of Supervisors that 64 detention officers--who make between $23,000 and $37,000 a year--did not receive the modest raise given to other sheriff's employees. The officers sought only a small raise, just $1,000 each, which would have cost the sheriff's office $64,000.

An October 16 sheriff's office memo gave the detention officers the bad news: "The sheriff's office does not have the funding" for the raise.

But a month later, Arpaio hired Carol Munroe, formerly of the county's animal control department, to direct his own "animal welfare" programs and oversee attempts to catch cat killers, dog abusers and cockfighters. Her pay: $61,000.

Gerberry says employees are incensed that Arpaio hired "his chicken lady" for about the same money detention officers were told the sheriff's office didn't have.

Gerberry says Arpaio hasn't done enough to improve the jails. "They have hired more people, but they've put them into food service and other nontraditional roles. They're not using staff properly. And it's at the risk of the health of the inmates and the officers."

Gerberry's willingness to publicly criticize the sheriff is an indication of the extent that Arpaio's relationship with his deputies has deteriorated. From the beginning of Arpaio's tenure, employees have complained, usually anonymously, that the media-hungry lawman was carefully hiding problems at the sheriff's office from the public. But now, deputies have become bolder as revelations about Arpaio and his chief aide David Hendershott have sparked numerous federal investigations into the sheriff's office.

At one time, Gerberry was included in high-level weekly staff meetings with the sheriff and his chief deputies. Gerberry is now excluded from those meetings, and he says Arpaio never consults with the Deputies Association. Arpaio has said publicly that he does not recognize either the Deputies Association or another organization that represents deputies, the Deputies Law Enforcement Association.

"He said, 'Fuck you,'" Gerberry says of Arpaio's statement that he doesn't recognize the associations.

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