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Maricopa County Sheriff Concerned Over Arizona Department Of Corrections Plan To Suspend Inmate Transfers To State Prisons

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
file | staff
Paul Penzone

The Arizona Department of Corrections announced a plan Monday to suspend sending people convicted of crimes from county jails to state prisons to mitigate the risks posed by the coronavirus. But the sheriff of Maricopa County says he did not sign on to the plan and is concerned about its implementation.

Monday morning, the Department of Corrections  announced that all 15 county sheriffs in Arizona had agreed to suspend sending inmates to the prisons for three weeks, "followed by subsequent 21-day cycles of prudent admissions."

In a statement, Department of Corrections Director David Shinn thanked Arizona Sheriffs, including Sheriff Paul Penzone, "for their exemplary leadership in this collaborative law enforcement effort.”

However, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone’s office said, as of Monday afternoon, he had not agreed to the terms.

In a statement, Penzone said he was highly concerned about the new policy "as we are now required to assume a greater burden in our custody division."

"The consistent process regarding transfer of inmates to the prison system upon sentencing is critical in the management of our inmate population," Penzone said. "Imposing this additional burden on the fourth largest jail system in the country will adversely affect safety for our staff and the inmate population. Our relationship is predicated on balance and consistency. This is neither.”

The Department of Corrections did not answer specific questions about the contradiction.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Sheriff's Association said there was a meeting planned Tuesday to discuss the policy proposed by the Department of Corrections.

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Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.