Two Arizona Communities Consider Joint Jail

GILBERT, Ariz. — A new partnership between the Gilbert Police Department and Chandler Police Department could potentially result in thousands in annual savings for each community. The two departments are currently in talks to jointly build and operate a new jail facility in Gilbert, eliminating the need to book inmates in neighboring Phoenix.

If the plan is approved, the two departments would split roughly $300,000 in construction costs, and would share additional operational and staffing expenses. However, the jail would likely pay for itself in only a few years when considering money saved in transportation and housing costs.

In the last fiscal year, the Gilbert Police Department alone racked up more than 80,000 miles on detention transportation vehicles, many of which were made on trips to book suspects in Phoenix’s Fourth Avenue Jail. Each trip also takes more than an hour, meaning the officer in charge of transporting the suspect is not on the street serving the community. Then, as is often the case, that suspect must be transported back to the respective municipality, requiring an officer to make another trip.

According to David Neuman, assistant chief of the Chandler Police Department, his community also paid an estimated $1.2 million to Maricopa County for booking and housing fees. This amount covered roughly 2,000 inmates. The expense is unique as most communities have their own detention facilities.

Gilbert first began to study the construction of a new jail several years ago after the closing of the county’s Southeast Regional Facility in Mesa. When complete, the newly expanded joint jail would likely be located in a renovated area in Gilbert’s current holding facility. Upgrades to that facility would include installing new security cameras, inmate showers and other equipment.

Meanwhile, Chandler would cover the majority of the jail’s staffing needs, as the Gilbert Police Department would likely need to hire an additional 13 officers to staff the facility independently. However, no official decision on the partnership will be made until May during the budget approval process.

Gilbert Town Council members have been generally supportive of the combined jail plan, but Mayor John Lewis did request more accurate fuel and vehicle maintenance saving figures. Lewis says the data would assist the council during the cost-benefit analysis process. According to Gilbert Police Commander Pete Smith, Chandler officials are already on board.

No timeline for the project has been set, though Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn has estimated the facility renovation could be completed by July.