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Saturday, August 1, 2009

O Arizona: Maricopa Sheriff's Office Uses Jail Improvement Funds Improperly: And Who is the Maricopa County Sheriff? O Sheriff Joe. . . .

Trips, parties paid by jail fund
Arizona collects and distributes millions of dollars every year from court fees so the 15 county sheriffs can improve their jails.

In Maricopa County, the Sheriff's Office has spent hundreds of thousands of those dollars on out-of-state travel for training, stays at luxury hotels and a staff party at a local amusement park, The Arizona Republic found.

The paper reviewed five years of spending records after the Sheriff's Office recently spent $456,000 from the Jail Enhancement Fund to buy a custom bus to transport inmates to court. The purchase drew the ire of the county Board of Supervisors, which has refused to put the bus on the street because it was bought without its approval. County administrators are looking into the Sheriff Office's use of the fund.

Former Arizona legislator Leo Corbet, a retired attorney who helped establish the Jail Enhancement Fund in 1982, said the intent was to help counties pay for basic jail necessities, such as locks and inmate transportation. When asked about recent expenditures such as the out-of-state travel, Corbet said, "Never in the world would we have condoned that kind of behavior."

Gerard Sheridan, Maricopa County chief of custody, called the expenditures "money well spent."

"When things are tight, especially with personnel, training is something that you cannot overlook. Matter of fact, you should train more in hard times with your staff," he said. "It helps us do more with less people, and especially now since we've got a hiring freeze on."

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