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How Pima County Jail gets ahead of gang issues

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-19 01:19:30-04

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, officers at the Pima County Jail said gang problems were growing and getting worse. All of this happened at the beginning of now Capt. Darin Stephens career with the Pima County Jail. There is one infamous brawl that he will always remember.

"The Mexican-Americans had some sort of clash with the African-Americans in the pod, and they segregated up and they fought," Stephens said. "It's probably been one of the most serious incidents that has occurred at the Pima County Adult Detention Center."

Again, that was nearly 20 years ago. At the time, officers told KGUN9 that gang members would often use race to rally other inmates to get violent. Today, there are still many gang members locked up, and inmate on inmate violence happens from time to time, according to Stephens. However, the jail has one special unit that's responsible for keeping tabs on gang members.

The unit is called the Security Services Division. They keep up to date with what inmates are affiliated with what gangs, and make sure others in the jail are aware of gang affiliations.

"We know who they are, and while they're in our facility," Stephens said. "If they want to remain in general population, they're going to play by our rules."

Tattoos often are marks of pride for gang members. But, while they're spending time at the county jail, there's no hiding them from corrections officers who are in charge of the pods. 

"Our officers understand the importance of identifying gang members, and they bring a lot of that information to our security services unit," Stephens said. "And it allows them to protect our facility from gangs and their politics."

Even though they're dealing with criminals, the officers' job is to keep them safe while serving time.