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Vaccine mandate could terminate more than half of Pima County's corrections officers

Vaccine mandate could terminate more than half of Pima County's corrections officers
Posted at 6:57 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 07:36:21-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — By the end of December, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department will potentially terminate hundreds of correctional officers. This comes at a time when the department already faces major staffing shortages.

Pima County is moving forward with its vaccine mandate. All unvaccinated employees working with vulnerable populations have until December 31 to get their vaccines. Otherwise, they will be terminated.


“We hope that when the dust settles on all of this, we wont lose anybody," said Chris Nanos, the Pima County Sheriff. "I don’t want to lose one person, much less 150-200.”

There are currently 218 employees in the sheriff’s department that stand to lose their jobs. Of those, 206 are classified as corrections officers, sergeants, and lieutenants.

“If you look at some of the departments that have been hit the hardest with covid and outbreaks, it's absolutely in our jails and sheriff’s department,” Adelita Grijalva, Pima County Supervisor, District 5.

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos says he’s already facing staffing shortages. Now, he could potentially lose 55% of his corrections staff.

“We have a situation where corrections officers are unable to control the inmate population currently and now we’re going to terminate a whole bunch of them,” said Steve Christy, Pima County Supervisor, District 4.

The Chief Deputy County Administrator Jan Lesher says she’s working with the Sheriff to mitigate these issues. In a memo, Lesher named reducing the jail population of “unnecessary incarcerations” as one solution.

“It makes no sense, let's open up the jails if we don’t have enough staffing?" Christy said. "That'll cure the problem.”

But Nanos insists this judicial reform is not related to staffing shortages.

“I want that jail population reduced because it's the right thing to do," Nanos said. "Not because of some virus, but because of judicial reform.”

He named a few other solutions such as assigning deputies to work the jail, or increasing shift hours. The department also plans to have five academies a year to train correctional officers.

“We all took an oath to protect and serve and I think getting that shot is part that oath," Nanos said. "It's part of protecting.”