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Pinal County Sheriff Lamb Defends Spending of Inmate Welfare Fund on Weapons

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Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb defended his decision to divert $222,463 from an inmate welfare fund to purchase weapons, ammunition, and ballistic vests during a recent Pinal County Board of Supervisors meeting. Lamb, also a U.S. Senate candidate, has faced scrutiny for this decision, which some argue contravenes Arizona law.

The controversy began with an Arizona Luminaria investigation, which reported that Lamb's office spent more than $200,000 from the inmate welfare fund on weaponry over a five-year period. Arizona law mandates this fund to be used for the "benefit and welfare of inmates," which typically includes education, food, or training services.

Lamb has justified his use of the funds by arguing that the weapons are crucial for ensuring the safety of both the incarcerated individuals and the jail staff. His stance has faced significant pushback. Jared Keenan, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said, "bullets cannot be in any way seen to benefit anyone incarcerated there."

Amid calls for transparency and questions about the legality of such expenditures, Lamb emphasized that the law is "general in nature" and designed to provide flexibility for varying jail circumstances across Arizona. He added that guns, bullets, and vests play a role in "maintaining [inmates'] welfare."

There have been mixed reactions from the public regarding this issue. Some residents believe Sheriff Lamb made the right decision, citing the need for security and order within the jail. Others demand an external audit to ensure there is no misuse of funds.

Board chair Jeff Serdy brought up the topic of inmate deaths as a measure of welfare, with Lamb revealing nine deaths in the jail since 2018.

Another area of concern was a $39,000 expenditure labeled as "heavy equipment," which Lamb clarified was used for a forklift to unload commissary items.

The discussion on the appropriateness of Lamb's decision still lingers, with some members of the Board of Supervisors expressing satisfaction with Lamb's explanations and others highlighting the importance of public accountability.

While no concrete decisions were made during the meeting, this topic will likely remain at the forefront of local discussions, especially given Lamb's aspirations for the Senate. The ultimate judgment on Lamb's actions, as some suggest, might be in the hands of Pinal County's voters. 

BOS Regular Session - Oct 18, 2023

STARTS AT 38:08
(6) Discussion regarding the administration of special services fund by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in accordance with A.R.S. 31-121 and the uses and programs supported by these funds. (Mark Lamb) 

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