MCSO: Former Tent City space to be used for inmate opioid treatment programs

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that part of the now-closed Tent City jail complex will house substance-abuse counseling programs for inmates.

The room that was once used as the "dayroom," or a place for the inmates to cool off at the former Tent City will now be used to expand the Mosaic program.

"To take a space that quite frankly, was unproductive at best, and turn it into something that could be productive," said Penzone.

The program is used to tackle addiction and behavioral problems to drop the numbers of repeat offenders.

"For anyone out there who has had a loved one that has made bad decisions and became a drug addict that has then led to other criminal behavior, you understand the importance of investing to help those in need. Not carry them, but provide a resource opportunity for them to find a path back to wellness," said Penzone.

>>VIDEO: MCSO news conference - Penzone to use now-closed Tent City for counseling programs

The program typically helps about 500 inmates annually, but because of this new center, that number will increase to about 800. Inmates will go through a one week introductory phase, followed by a six week intensive treatment course.

"We choose people who actually have a substance abuse disorder. That could be opioid use disorder or another form. Or also people on an evidence based risk screening are moderate to high risk," explained Dr. Dawn Noggle, Director of Mental Health at Maricopa County Correctional Health Services.

Renovations on the building cost $173,000. That money came from the jail enhancement fund, which was already set aside. Sheriff Penzone says this expansion will cost taxpayers nothing.

"Much like consolidating the staff that I had when I shortened us down to six jail facilities to five," he said. "What we're doing is we have the ability to bring the population to one space. Increase the populaiton while utilizing the same staffing model to deliver that product."

As for the outdoor space at the former Tent City, Sheriff Penzone says they are working on some plans, but nothing is finalized as of yet. We talked to with the governor's office and they said they have plans to use the space. The state is planning to build a $20 million facility on the site to house inmates and provide rehabilitation and job training. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will be voting on this on the 23rd.

Earlier this year, Penzone announced Tent City would be shut down because there was no "empirical evidence" that the controversial facility reduced crime.

Tent City began operations in 1993 by then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio.