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Corrections officers discuss being terminated, state of jails

Corrections officers discuss being terminated, state of jails
Posted at 6:13 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-08 21:55:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On Friday, all departments in the County submitted their final count for employees that have been terminated as a result of vaccine mandate. The Sheriff’s Office has lost the most employees, sending terminations to 22 corrections officers.

“A termination does not look good on your resume, but I think standing up for your principles does, I think it looks better,” said Leland Mason, Pima County Corrections Officer.

Leland Mason has been a corrections officer at the Pima County Jail for ten years.

“It wasn’t just a job for me, it was a career," Mason said. "I love what I do I love my coworkers and I genuinely enjoyed going to work every single day.”

He’s one of 22 officers that were terminated this week as a result of the County’s vaccine mandate.

“In September, we were down 70 officers, now that number has risen to over 100,” said Carlos Delgado, Pima County Corrections Officer for 15 years.

Terminated officers say the work environment in the jails is dire.

“The number they’re going to report is the smallest number, but what needs to be understood is that dozens have already resigned,” Delgado said.

“I'm hearing about how bad it's getting, I'm hearing about the insane increase in overtime, I'm hearing officers working 24 hour shifts," Mason said. "I didn’t even realize that was legal.”

With the jails understaffed, these are the first employees Sheriff Chris Nanos has terminated since 2020. But Nanos says these terminations wont have a large impact on jail staffing.

“We have a corrections officer academy of 22," said Sheriff Chris Nanos. "It's almost basically washing out.”

There are 89 employees in the Sheriff’s Office with extenuating circumstances that have not yet submitted their vaccine status. Those circumstances include maternal leave, military leave, or vacation.

“They know what’s expected of them, and they’ve told us it's not a problem," Nanos said. "They will be vaccinated when they come back,”

It’s still unclear what the future holds for County employees with medical or religious exemptions. The County plans to move them into positions where they no longer work with vulnerable populations.