Pima County voters will make decisions about the future of the justice system this fall.
In the Republican primary race for Pima County sheriff, voters will choose between two men with law enforcement backgrounds. Mark Napier worked in the Tucson and Glendale police departments, and Terry Staten is a sergeant in the Pima County Sheriff's Department. The winner will face the Democratic incumbent Chris Nanos in November. Nanos was appointed to the seat.
In the Democratic primary race for Pima County attorney, voters have a choice between Barbara LaWall, who is seeking her sixth term, and challenger Joel Feinman, who hopes to unseat her. The winner goes on to compete with Cynthia Tuell, a Green Party candidate, in the general election.
In Friday's episode of Metro Week, the candidates in those races explain why they want to run Pima County's law enforcement and criminal justice system.
Pima County Attorney
The two Democrats differ on who is, and should be, in jail and prison.
LaWall said she has a record of putting the right people behind bars.
"I have held violent and dangerous offenders accountable. We have a 92 percent conviction rate and an 85 percent conviction rate at trial and I have done an exemplary job," she said.
She said she sees the job as her way to make a positive difference for the community.
"I don't think we're getting the justice system we need," Feinman said. "She and i disagree about what the conviction rates are."
Arizona has the sixth highest incarceration rate, per capita, in the U.S., he said.
"I believe flatly that we have too many people in prison," he said. Feinman said he would look at who should be there. He said some drug offenders who are sentenced are low-level offenders with mental health issues, or substance abuse who should be routed to treatment or services instead of incarceration.
LaWall said most of the people in the jail are awaiting trial, and are from other jurisdictions such as Marana or Tucson, not Pima County cases that the county attorney prosecutes.
Low-level offenders are not incarcerated, they go to probation and treatment first, for the first two convictions, she said.
Pima County Sheriff
It's been about 40 years since an outsider took over the Sheriff's Department, and that means it's time for change, Napier said. He cited an FBI investigation and low employee morale.
"There's never been a time in the history of the department where outside leadership and new leadership has been as important as it is now," Napier said.
Staten agrees that low morale, intimidation and low pay have prompted the need for a new administration.
Regarding the $145 million budget, Staten said the department has an issue with retention, which means people leave for better pay elsewhere, and that drives up overtime costs.
"We loose too many seasoned deputies...to other agencies because they can't get the pay that they're supposed to be getting, that they were promised," Staten said.
Napier said the amount of funding for the department is appropriate, but it isn't being spent appropriately because too much is spent on administration.
To raise deputy pay "we really need to look internally first before we go to taxpayers and ask for more money," Napier said.