PHOENIX - You may be surprised, but the "most dangerous women" inside a Maricopa County detention facility are not high-profile suspects and some of their charges may seem minor.
ABC15 was given exclusive access to an area of the Estrella Jail that most visitors will never see -- the Bravo Tower 400 Pod. It is here where cells house women who are deemed too dangerous to be among the general jail population.
Detention Officer Karla Carcamo guided us, and guarded us, as we stepped into the most secure part of the jail. Carcamo listed the security levels inmates are given: “minimum, medium, maximum and then closed-custody.”
Closed-custody is considered an area where unpredictable inmates are kept, “the worst of the worst.”
During our tour on January 25, 11 women were being housed in Bravo’s closed-custody cells.
The list of charges for the women include: probation violations, armed robbery, escape, criminal trespassing, theft and dangerous drug possession.
When in B400, the inmates are allowed to spend one hour out of their cell a day. During that time, they are free to walk around a room and shower. If another person needs to be in the room during that hour, the inmate must have their hands and feet shackled.
For the remaining 23 hours, the women will be locked alone in their cell, measuring roughly 7 by 11 feet.
“They can turn on you just like that,” said Carcamo. “Even though they’re chained, they’re still dangerous.”
Inmates are moved to a closed-custody status after a series of outbursts and violent behavior, said a spokesperson.
“I’m kind of like institutionalized,” said inmate Taylor Stewart, 22.
According to Stewart’s court records, she was arrested for shoplifting and resisting arrest on November 24, 2012.
Stewart is in the B400 Pod, not because of her charges, but because of what happened when she was already behind bars.
“I socked [another inmate] in the jaw,” Stewart told ABC15, “and I just let her have it.”
Stewart smiles during most her interview, admitting that she understands why she is in closed-custody, but argues she is not dangerous. “I’m really sweet, I’m a big teddy bear.”
She has a 3-year-old daughter who she never sees and rarely talks to on the phone, she told us.
“She thinks I’m at school,” Stewart said. “And her dad’s in prison, so she thinks he’s at school, too.”
Stewart’s daughter is currently living with grandparents.
Stewart accepts that, if convicted, she may not see her daughter until the child is a teenager.
“So you think it’s better she not know you?” I asked her.
“Well, if this is the life I’m living, yeah,” Stewart replied.
Inmates can be transferred out of B400 for good behavior, but Carcamo said it is very rare.
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