In an effort to attract detention officers, the county has raised starting pay to about $32,000 a year and lowered the employment age to 18. In recent months, there has been an increase in the number of detention officers getting trained. However, attrition remains high, and the overall shortfall of guards remains about the same as it was a year ago.
Working conditions inside the operating jails are horrible, with many guards working extra shifts. The county also is competing for qualified applicants with far more professional police agencies in the Valley.
The result is, few qualified applicants with any common sense want to work for a vengeful and paranoid boss like Arpaio.
"If employees speak out against the sheriff, they can almost be assured that an internal investigation will be undertaken and any prime position they have will be in jeopardy of being lost," says Brian Livingston, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, a trade and lobbying group that represents scores of police employee groups throughout the state.
Opening the new jails and quickly completing the planned remodeling of Madison Street Jail would greatly reduce the horrendous overcrowding in county lockups and help settle claims in an ongoing federal class-action lawsuit that has been before the U.S. District Court in Phoenix for 28 years.
There are about 3,000 sentenced inmates and 6,000 pretrial detainees jammed into county jails built to house 5,200 prisoners. Arpaio purposely keeps the jail population higher than necessary by refusing to use effective diversion programs that other counties, including Pima, have used for years.
These programs have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars because they reduce the need for new jails. But Arpaio wants to pack as many people in jail as possible. This generates income for the sheriff's office from fees paid by cities, the state and the federal government for holding prisoners.
Arpaio is so obsessed with keeping the jails full that he frequently targets parents who fail to pay child support for arrest and incarceration.
While I have a very low opinion of parents who skip out on obligations to pay for their children, I don't understand Arpaio's rationale for locking up these people. He keeps such parents incarcerated until they somehow come up with money to make good on delinquent child-support payments.
How in the hell can a parent do that when he or she isn't working? This illustrates that Arpaio isn't about solving the problem -- he couldn't care less about the kids of these parents while they rot in jail.
This is just another way to keep citizens crammed in his clinks. That way, Arpaio not only generates funds, he gets to claim that treating these minor lawbreakers like hardened criminals is protecting a public apparently frightened senseless by the threat of crime.
Just last month, still another inmate died unnecessarily because of bungling by Arpaio's detention officers, including their failure to communicate with Correctional Health Services, which is supposed to provide health care to county jail prisoners.
The January 23 death of Deborah Braillard is especially shocking because it was easily preventable. All the 46-year-old woman needed was her insulin to treat her severe diabetes.
The MCSO's line is that the woman didn't tell jail medical staff that she was diabetic when she was booked. But her daughter, Jennifer Braillard, doesn't believe this claim, saying her mother was no fool and knew she had to have insulin daily or she would quickly become sick.
Jailers say they thought she was a drug addict. They apparently never bothered to look at her medical records. If they had, they would have seen she was given insulin every day during a two-month jail stint in the winter of 2003-2004.
The timeline of Deborah Braillard's last hours of consciousness vividly reveals the callous disregard of human life inside Arpaio's lockups.
She was picked up on a probation violation, charged with possession of illegal drugs, and jailed on the evening of January 2. Nurses were in her cellblock two times on January 3 and once on the morning of January 4. There is no record they examined her or provided her insulin.
By 3:30 p.m. on January 4, Braillard was complaining to detention officers that she was having trouble breathing and feeling sick. A nurse came through the pod at 7 that evening, but did not treat Braillard, records indicate.