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» jail, Practice in General » Annoying Jail Policies

Annoying Jail Policies

Their potentially disastrous mistake involving inmate placement isn’t the only complaint I have about the Pinal County Jail. They’ve recently instituted some extremely annoying new visitation policies that sometimes make custody visits impossible.

They will not schedule visits from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Most of the superior court judges have 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. morning dockets and 1:30 p.m. afternoon dockets, so it is often impossible to make it from your hearings to jail before visitation ends at 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you want to do a visit at 12:30 p.m., there’s only a short window of time to visit before you will have to leave for afternoon hearings. If you want to do a visit at 6:00 p.m., there’s only a short window of time to visit before everything closes at 7:30 p.m. Are they trying to only allow visitation when attorneys are in court?

On top of that, the visits themselves are normally a pain because of other jail policies. First, you have to set up your visit at least 24 hours in advance. Some guards take that literally and won’t let you schedule a 10:00 a.m. visit at 11:00 a.m. on the morning before. Second, there are only three places for contact visits in the entire jail. Believe it or not, in a jail housing roughly fifteen-hundred inmates, only three in-person attorney visits can be conducted simultaneously.

Two of the places for contact visitation aren’t much better than video visitation. You sit on one side of glass, and the client sits on the other. There are about a half dozen visitation booths in each unit, but only one in each unit is actually set up for visitation. In those two booths, the phones don’t work very well, so it’s often easier to just yell through the glass. There is a little slit just big enough to fit through a few pieces of paper, so you have to ask the detention officer to give your client a pen to sign things. The officer usually tries to hover over your client until he gets his pen back.

The other contact visitation option gets you in the same room as the client, but you have to get a supervisor’s approval and it takes about twice as long as any other kind of visit (though the jail consistently takes its time doing visits regardless of the type). Some of the time, ICE is conducting unscheduled interviews in the room and you have to wait. I’m guessing that, unlike attorneys, ICE doesn’t have to call 24 hours in advance to set up a visit.

Little policies like that create big, needless problems for the criminal defense bar, and I’m sure I’m overlooking plenty of other stuff here. Some defense attorneys expressed hope that the new sheriff would make visitation easier. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think they shouldn’t hold their breath.

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