Wade Welch was booked into the Pima County Adult Detention center on August 15, 2022. Just two days later, on August 17, reports of his death emerged. Wade is the 24th person to die in jail custody since February 2020. And the 5th person to lose their life in the jail this year. According to the Tucson Sentinel, the Pima Regional Critical Incident Team will be conducting the investigation into wade’s death, indicating that he likely died as the result of a use-of-force incident by guards.
This incident team, established March 2022. Is comprised of the Pima County Sheriffs Department and eight other police departments, including the Tucson Police Department, both University of Arizona and Pima Community College Police. And police departments of the greater Tucson area. The claim that this team will address any ‘conflict of interest ‘is puzzling. It poses as a separate entity, while being comprised of the same organizations that perpetrate the crimes this team will be in charge of investigating.
There is certainly no shortage of critique for this method its failure to bring about justice is evident all over the country. While the adequacy of this new team remains to be seen, what we do know is that the Pima County Jail continues to be deadly. Police and courts in Tucson and the surrounding areas use the jail as a catch. All solution to our city’s problems, putting our community members’ lives at risk every day. This needs to stop immediately.
Today. We remember the life of Wade Welch. His life mattered, but he was given a death sentence in the Pima County Jail. We honor his memory, we offer condolences to his family and we promise that his death will not go unanswered.
On August 25, 2022, an eviction notice was scheduled to be served at Lind Commons Apartments in Tucson, AZ. Horrifically, the intended eviction ended in the loss of 4 lives.
The events of August 25th are a tragedy from any angle. While some may be shocked and confused at how suddenly 4 people could lose their lives, many of us can’t help but see much of this as inevitable in a city routinely making headlines for its skyrocketing housing costs. Food insecurity, lack of a living wage and critically needed resources, soaring cost of living and rental prices, forced and intentionally sustained houselessness, etc., have devastated Tucson. As cost-of-living climbs, so do eviction rates. Housing insecurity and evictions, where people are literally removed from their homes by force, put people in the most desperate situations.
Yet again, there is no shortage of deniers and opportunists ready with talking points to dismiss the real crises. Mayor Romero, City Council, and the City of Tucson have a long history of refusing to acknowledge the root causes that contribute to violence and so-called “crime” in Tucson.
Instead of acknowledging and addressing the current and increasing real crises in our city, they invent a new one, one they like to call “gun violence”. A dubious title for such various outbursts of violence, from everyday “crime” based on the pressures of intentional poverty and the drug war to school shooters increasingly sympathetic to misogynist and racist opportunism among segments of the far right. Who does the invention of such a sweeping and emotionally loaded term as “gun violence” benefit?
City officials will likely use this as an opportunity, as they’ve done many times before, to pour more money into the Tucson Police Department budget. Tucson Police and Pima CountySheriff’s officers have killed 57 people since 2014. Many were killed during a mental health crisis or call that started as a wellness check. Yet, the city doesn’t increase resources and funding for supportive mental health services. There is a huge gap in the City’s budget between funding for the Tucson Police Department and Housing. From 2017 to 2020 The Tucson Police Department budget skyrocketed, from $159,964,58 to $249,191,000 while the housing budget went from $65,113,000 to $79,253,000.
We know that putting more money into the Tucson Police Department to “combat gun violence” will help nothing. Putting money into police will not address the root causes of violence in our community. In fact, putting more money into police will only exacerbate them. This money removes, decreases, and prevents the creation of vital services. This money puts more dangerous and deadly cops on our streets.
Interestingly when law enforcement or private security shoot multiple people, such as what recently occurred in Denver, CO, when police opened fire on a suspect in front of a crowded bar and shot 6 people, there is no cry for a crackdown on “gun violence”. We wonder, would the 4 lives lost during the eviction notice being served on August 25th get such a statement from Mayor Regina Romero if the constable serving the notice hadn’t been among them? It is not unrelated that the only face the city has chosen to acknowledge so far is that of the constable serving the eviction. They reserve remembrance and honor for those who enforce injustice; they forget and condescend to those forced to live in injustice.
Mayor Romero and city officials will cynically use this incident to build careers on a veneer of progressivism. They will continue to use the backs of the people in this city as a launchpad to climb the ladder of national politics. Meanwhile, real people lose their homes, go hungry, and die in the streets. These progressives have blood on their hands.
We have nothing but contempt for those who play such political games. Hopefully, we can finally turn our backs on those who offer such false hope someday soon, and we will no longer need statements like this.
The task ahead of us is surely immense. We have no easy answers for those worried about the problems heaped on our community. We know only 3 things for certain: there are only false answers offered by those in power in Tucson, our only hope is to get organized together to take care of each other, and through growing our power, we will find the answers we need.
On August 18, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) and Crisis Response Center (CRC) held a panel discussion regarding TPD’s program to deflect people during police interactions to the crisis center instead of bringing them to jail.
The city and police are quick to pat themselves on the back for their supposedly progressive program, but the reality of the situation shows that it is neither effective in protecting vulnerable people from police violence, nor is it equitably used.
The truth is, their program isn’t working.
The Tucson Police Department has shown a pattern of causing harm, arresting, and killing individuals with a mental illness. Currently, about SIXTY PERCENT of those incarcerated in the Pima County Jail are living with a mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
The Tucson Police Department Mental Health Support Team (MHST), which was developed in January 2014, brags that they receive 40 hours of crisis intervention plus some additional mental health aid trainings for the Tucson police and Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Actual mental health first responders and service providers go to school for years to develop skills and techniques to work with individuals with serious mental illnesses. Allowing fully armed officers to intervene in mental health crises after a few weeks of training is irresponsible and dangerous.
Since the beginning of the MHST team in 2014, the Tucson Police Department has murdered 43 individuals in our community, while the Sheriff’s Department has murdered an additional 13. Of those 56 people, at least 16 had a known mental illness and/or substance use disorders. At least 3 of these deaths occurred during mental health/wellness checks, including the death of Carlos Ingram Lopez. TPD officers suffocated Carlos by kneeling on his back for over 12 minutes.
This year alone, 5 people with a known mental illness were murdered by TPD and the Sheriffs. Of the 56 murders, ZERO officers have been charged with any crime. Additionally, since 2014 at least 28 people have died in the Pima County Jail–15 of whom have died since January 2021. Law enforcement agencies are the only agencies that can murder people with impunity; they not only receive no repercussions but can then praise themselves for their work in the community and progressive policies.
Additionally, a recent impact report by Justice System Partners on the crisis center and TPD crisis intervention program shows that of the individuals deflected to the crisis center instead of jail a staggering 68% are White, while only 8% of those deflected were Black, 4% were Latinx, 2% were bi-racial, 1% were Asian and 12.5% were listed as another race. Between 2013 and 2021 the Tucson Police Department killed Black individuals at a rate 3.6 times higher than they killed White individuals, and killed Latinx individuals at a 1.2 times higher rate. These statistics demonstrate glaringly obvious racism within the Tucson Police Department.
We are a coalition of family members, friends, and loved ones of individuals who have lost their lives in the Pima County Jail and their supporters as well as direct service providers, including social workers and legal defenders who work with people living with mental illnesses in our community. We know that many individuals receive little support or ongoing services from the Crisis Response Center and are consistently harassed, abused, and arrested by the Tucson Police Department and Pima County Jail. We have seen it with our own eyes over and over.
While deflection programs may reduce some arrests, this does not provide any long-term solution or guarantee that the individual will not just be arrested in the near future after being released with no continuing support. Instead of investing money and resources into band-aid solutions that center police as a person’s primary means of receiving services, the city must invest in real, long-term solutions and center people without relying upon the police. People with mental illnesses need ongoing supportive services, not a revolving door of emergency care at the crisis center.
The Justice System Partners report says that of the individuals who present at the crisis center, 58.8% are released in under ten hours. While the crisis center claims that resources are provided to those individuals, one social worker we spoke with said that her clients are often not admitted when seeking emergency help or are released the following morning with no additional resources or follow-up care.
Interestingly, the Justice System Partners report does not provide any interviews or quotes from individuals who were actually deflected to the crisis center, only interviews from TPD officers claiming that their program is successful.
As evidenced by the amount of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders currently incarcerated in the Pima County Jail, and the number of people in our community killed by TPD and the Sheriff’s Department, it is clear that law enforcement is not serving to protect our community members with mental illnesses. Cops out of Crisis. Defund TPD. Shut down the Pima County Jail. INVEST in our communities.
Impact Report: Examining The Impacts of Arrest Deflection Strategies on Jail Reduction Efforts – Pima County, AZ
TUCSON, Arizona– Another life has been stolen by the Pima County Jail and Sheriff’s Department. On Friday, May 13th, 42-year-old Alejandro Romo was “found unresponsive” in his cell. This is the 13th death in the Pima County Jail since January 2021.
Last year, the jail had a mortality rate more than three times the national average with an average of one person dying behind its walls every 38 days. As with so many others who have died in the jail, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has released almost no information regarding the circumstances surrounding Mr. Romo’s death.
This month, Sheriff Nanos met with the Pima County Board of Supervisors to request an increase in funding for his department, giving vague reasoning to what the money would be used for. He believes that an increase in funding, staff, and invasive body searches would fix the “problem.”
However, we know that no amount of funding or reform will improve the jail or prevent deaths. We know that jails are inherently violent and traumatic. We know that the only way to truly keep our community safe is to shut down the jail and divest from the violent system of punishment and incarceration.
Underlying societal weaknesses like lack of housing, job opportunities, and affordable child care, just to name a few, all make our community members vulnerable and more likely to experience incarceration. Any available funding needs to be put towards providing services to help support and stabilize our neighbors, not better incriminate them.
No money for destructive bandaids, we need to fix the root causes.
As Sheriff Nanos, Laura Conover, Mayor Romero, and the City of Tucson continue to push the narrative that Tucson is a progressive city, the continued deaths at the Pima County Jail show a clear contradiction. The Jail and Sheriff’s Department have inflicted irreversible damage on our communities, especially on the loved ones of those who have passed away in the jail.
Please join us in honoring Mr. Romo by opposing this violent and oppressive jail that has robbed our communities of 13 lives in 17 months.
By Ryan Fatica, Contributor, Unicorn Riot | Originally published on Unicorn Riot
Tucson, AZ – A crowd of about 60 people slowly converged on the empty plaza and parking lots of Pima County Jail Friday night. Bathed in the yellow glow of the streetlights, some gathered in groups and chatted while others hurriedly constructed frames for their custom-made vinyl banners commemorating their family members whose lives were lost in the jail.
“We’re out here trying to get our voices heard, for him especially because he doesn’t have one anymore,” said Vanessa Palacios, whose cousin Pedro Xavier Martinez Palacios, 24, died in the jail in January of this year. “So we’re here for him, speaking for him too. We’re not going to stop until we get answers.”
Fathers lit candles and packs of teens gathered around their phones wearing t-shirts bearing the faces of the dead—a lost tío, a friend or cousin missing from their lives. Young children ran holding hands and taunting a 12-foot tall puppet of the grim reaper. Around its neck hung a sign with the name of Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos: “Nanos, La Muerte.” The children dared each other to touch it, calling it a “monster.”
Stephanie Madero, whose husband Richard Piña died in the jail in 2018, addressed the crowd on behalf of the No Jail Deaths Coalition, the group organizing the event. She told the story of her husband’s death from what she said was a treatable infection.
“He’d been sick for about three weeks,” Madero explained. “If he’d gotten any kind of medical…he probably could have lived. But they waited. He never got to see medical. He passed out in his room and they found him unconscious. He died two weeks later.”
After about an hour of discussion and preparations, a portion of the crowd began to march in circles through the roundabout banging pots and pans while others drew with sidewalk chalk. People banged on street signs with sticks and rocks. Detainees flashed the lights of their cells in silent communion while Lil’ Boosie’s anti-cop anthem blasted from the mobile sound system. Mourners carried prayer candles as they shouted along with the music.
At moments the event seemed less like a protest and more like the funeral processions of six fallen youths that converged in a single place and erupted into a furious, atonal chorus of grief and anger.
A mother walked around the circle, her pace her own, her steps erratic, clutching a large framed portrait of her dead son. As she walked she screamed “fuck the police!” over and over with her voice hoarse, like a mantra or a prayer for redemption. Those around her repeated her screams, but she seemed not to notice.
The No Jail Deaths Coalition was organized late last year as the jail mortality rate turned from anomaly to crisis. A coalition of activists and family members of those who died in the jail, started regularly gathering in front of its razor-wire-topped walls in fall 2021.
That year, ten people lost their lives in the jail and two more died in 2022, as of early May. Last year, the jail’s mortality rate was more than three times the national average with one person dying in its custody every 36 days. Only three of those deaths were attributed to COVID-19. This massive loss of life resulted in little more than words on the part of those in power in Pima County.
No Jail Deaths’ website hosts a memorial page commemorating each person who died in the jail in the last three years.
Liz Casey, a social worker with the Florence Project, represented two clients who died in the jail in 2021—William Omegar, 37, and Jesus Aguilar Figueroa, 70.
“Both of them had been diagnosed previously with mental health issues, some very severe issues like schizophrenia,” said Casey. “William was a refugee who experienced a massive amount of trauma in his life and just never got the culturally competent care he needed to live safely in the community. He was in the jail a lot and also used drugs a lot to cope with the trauma and his mental health.”
Casey now sees her role as advocating for her clients even in death.
“These two individuals specifically don’t really have family around to be able to advocate for them or to let people know that it’s not right for them to die in the jail. I don’t want them to be forgotten or just brushed aside like they didn’t matter. Like their life didn’t matter and their death in the jail didn’t matter.”
With some exceptions, the roster of jail deaths reads like a chronicle of the city’s most marginalized. Disproportionately Black and Latino, many experienced drug addiction and a huge proportion suffered from serious mental health conditions for which they were not receiving proper support.
“There’s so many people who end up in the jail and have nobody who’s really paying attention to what’s going on with them. To give them legal advice if they get abused in the jail. Really nobody to protect their rights if they’re being violated.”
The demonstration occurred just a few days before the County Board of Supervisors is set to decide upon a $3.6 million budget increase for the sheriff’s department. Speaking of the proposed budget increase, No Jail Deaths asked in a press release “what good will it serve a dysfunctional at best, and deadly at worst, organization?”
The four most recent deaths at the jail have all been attributed to drug overdoses, according to autopsy reports.
In the face of mounting criticism, Sheriff Nanos announced on March 1 that all jail guards now have access to Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, and will no longer have to wait for medical teams to arrive to respond to an overdose. In contrast, Tucson police announced five and a half years ago that they would begin carrying Narcan.
According to Casey, help for the city’s most desperate simply doesn’t exist at the scale required to meet the need.
“There’s a narrative being pushed in the mainstream by the city that we have very good services and resources—that people can get into housing, that people can get mental health services, that we have a crisis line that we have a homeless outreach unit with TPD who care for people instead of jailing them. And it’s just not true. We’re not significantly different than other cities who have killings by police and in the jails. At this point, we’re probably worse than a lot of cities in terms of death rate by our police and in the jail.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average mortality rate for all local jails in the United States in 2019 was 167 per 100,000 detainees. In the Pima County Jail, 10 people died in 2021 despite a record low jail population, estimated to be an average of 1,700 detainees per day. That translates to a mortality rate of 588 per 100,000 detainees, or more than three times the national average.
With all the attention the jail is getting, No Jail Deaths’ organizers say people keep approaching them, largely through Facebook, to tell their stories of abuse and misuse of authority on the part of the Pima County Sheriffs and Correctional Officers at the jail.
A 19-year-old man who spoke with Unicorn Riot under conditions of anonymity said that sheriff’s deputies arrested him in March 2022 for little more than walking down the road, booking him into the jail for “refusing to provide truthful name when lawfully detained.” During his arrest, the man said deputies slammed his head into the side of their car, giving him a concussion.
“I didn’t even do anything,” the young man said. “They didn’t read my rights, they just took my wallet out…and put me in the cruiser. It was all like a 30 second process. It was so quick. They put me in that cruiser not even knowing why. They just wanted to mess with me.”
After transporting him to the jail, the man said the deputies put him into a restraint chair because they didn’t like the way he was speaking to them. “I’m all amped up so I’m talking shit,” the man said. “All [of] the sudden I had five sheriffs on me like I’m acting erratic. Freedom of speech is not a crime. I’m not resisting, I’m not being physical, I’m not pushing nobody. I’m doing what you guys are telling me to do, but I’m speaking for myself because it’s wrong what you guys are doing.”
According to the young man, deputies left him in the restraint chair facing the wall for two hours while he screamed for help and asked for water. After an initial court appearance in the morning, he was released.
A search of court records confirmed the time and location of the man’s arrest as well as his charges.
“Jail is for dangerous criminals…” wrote Sheriff Nanos in a 2021 statement on police reform. “By working with our courts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to find jail alternatives for those serving time in our jail for low level, nonviolent misdemeanors, we not only provide for a safer community, we also save taxpayers millions of dollars.”
As Sheriff Nanos prepares to request millions more taxpayer dollars, family members of those who died in the jail are asking the county not to invest in the future the sheriff has planned.
“3.6 million and he hasn’t even addressed our family members and their deaths or what needs to be done to help stop people from dying in these facilities,” said Madero to those gathered in front of the jail. “That money isn’t going to go to any of them. It’s going to go to staffing, like that guy on the roof over there,” she said, gesturing to the deputies stationed on the roof, observing the crowd.
Under the watchful eye of the sheriff’s department, a motley assortment of people gathered their strength, preparing for the battle ahead.
“We’re going to be in his face as much as we can. We’re not going to give up,” said Madero. “Because our families matter. Our people matter too.”
We received word today that the Sheriff’s Department has placed the jail on lockdown in anticipation of our protest tonight.
THIS LOCKDOWN SERVES NO RATIONAL SECURITY INTEREST.
It’s an attempt to punish those who they’ve been neglecting and killing the last two years for our attempts to draw attention to the callous and brutal nature of the Pima County Jail and those in whose interests it serves.
They would prefer we ignore what they’re doing–tucked away in the shadows, out of sight. But we won’t let them.
Please come out tonight to help us shine a light on their brutality and make some noise so that our community members locked inside know they’re not forgotten!
Wear a mask, bring noisemakers, and write the National Lawyer Guild’s legal hotline (to report arrests–your own or another’s) on your body: 520-477-2654
TUCSON, Arizona— On Friday, May 6 at 8PM, community members will gather outside Pima County Jail to continue the call for an end to this detention facility. 12 people have died in Pima County Jail since January 2021, some passing within a week of entering into custody of the jail.
“We have to keep coming out so that change is made,” said Julissa Madero whose boyfriend Jacob Miranda, 22, died in the jail in October 2021. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the hurt that me and my children are going through.”
Pima County has proven themselves both impotent, and idle to administer adequate care to those placed in detention. There is no aspect of Pima County Jail that is not lacking in their execution of responsibility to the lives they are mistakenly entrusted with.
On May 10, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department will be pursuing a $3.6M increase to their budget for staffing. We ask what good will it serve a dysfunctional at best, and deadly at worst, organization?
The Sheriff’s Department has demonstrated a clear inability to provide access to basic needs at the jail. The four most recent deaths in the jail have been attributed to overdoses. Narcan has only just become available to Correction Officers as of March 2022. What took them so long? We believe it is the pressure applied to the county over the last eight months of this effort that has finally brought this to fruition.
The author Judith Butler has presented us all with the question “…Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives? And, finally, what makes for a grievable life? Despite our differences in location and history, my guess is that it is possible to appeal to a ‘we,’ for all of us have some notion of what it means to have lost somebody.”
Consider the offenses that could land a person in county jail–minor offenses. Everyday people find themselves in booking, and in this jail everyday people are losing their lives.
In an ongoing effort to spread awareness, mourn, and build connection, a sixth rally will be held at Pima County Jail this Friday. Join us, for the first time or the sixth time, in a show of solidarity for those who are currently incarcerated, and in support of the families calling for answers and an end to Pima County Jail’s tenure plagued by countless abuses and death.
What: Protest at Pima County Jail
When: Friday, May 6, 2022, 7:30 PM
Where: Pima County Adult Detention Complex, 1270 W Silverlake Rd, Tucson, AZ 85713
No More Jail Deaths Coalition is a group of grieving families and their supporters dedicated to seeing an end to death and abuse at the hands of the carceral system.
On April 12, Hector Daniel Sandoval’s mother called the mental health crisis line, seeking help for her intellectually disabled and schizophrenic son who was experiencing a crisis.
Instead of getting the help she needed, Tucson Police officers responded to her call and promptly arrested her son and took him to the Pima County Jail where he’s currently being held on a $10,000 bond.
This is another example of how the authorities in Pima County are failing us and using the jail as a catch all response for mental health and substance use. Instead of helping Hector,they’re holding him for ransom.
Last year, someone died in the Pima County Jail every 31 days. Waiting around until people get out is no longer an option. Getting Hector out may be the difference between life and death.
Please call those responsible for holding Hector.
Jail main desk 520-351-4600 press 1 then 6
Sheriff Nanos 520-351-4600 Press 0 Ask for Sheriff Nanos Office
Follow the conversation and help boost this campaign by going to the post on @NoJailDeaths (IG). Like, share, save & comment!
Petition | Family of Cruz Patiño started this petition to Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos; Tucson Mayor Regina Romero; Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich; Arizona Governor Doug Ducey;Arizona State House;Arizona State Senate | change.org
Together, We Can Be The VOICE!
In The Year (2021) 11 Individuals Including Young Cee-Jay (Cruz Patino) Sadly Lost Their Life In Pima County Jail (PCJ).
Together, We Can Be The VOICE! of CeeJay & (ALL) Others Who Lost Their Precious Life.
RIGHT NOW!, We Have A Critical Opportunity To “Shine A Light” On The Pima County Adult Detention Center (PCJ) For The Unjust, Negligent, & Unsafe Policies, Procedures, & Staff Conduct That Is Currently Taking Place.
With Your Help!, We Can Reform, Revise, Induct, & Establish Comprehensive Policies,& Procedures That Ensure The Well-Being Of Incarcerated Human Beings (Our Loved Ones) Confined Within That DEATH-TRAP.
#WeAreHere for #JusticeReformNOW! #Rest-In-Everlasting-Peace (CeeJay) (J-Mack)(Jacob)
WE ARE CALLING FOR AN IMMEDIATE! (IN-DEPTH)TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATION ON (PCJ)!!!!!