PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone is raising concerns, after the Department of Corrections announced a plan to temporarily suspend admission for new inmates, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"We are in the business of close proximity,￼ putting our hands on people, those who have either committed crimes or pose a threat in someway. That is the nature of public safety,"￼￼ said Sheriff Penzone.
Penzone knows that￼ dealing with the coronavirus scare is walking a fine line between public safety and public health.
"I think we’re all challenged right now with a pandemic that affects our community in a lot of different ways," said Penzone. "In the law-enforcement community, there’s even more severe￼ circumstances that we have to be cautious￼ in addressing."
On Monday, the Arizona Department of Corrections put out a note saying that all 15 County sheriffs in the state had agreed to suspend the acceptance of inmates for 21 days.￼ Penzone, however, is saying hold on a second.
"As much as I can appreciate why that is their request, it creates a backup for us because we still have people coming in through the front door￼," said Penzone. "I still have a population of detention officers￼ who are responsible for safety, and their own safety.”"
The worry is about an inmate processing traffic jam that Penzone says would "assume a greater burden" for one of the largest prison systems in the United States.
"I’m not going to diminish that they face the same challenges that I do, but when we talk about the population growth and those are turned over to the Department of Corrections, the higher volume is going to come from Maricopa County Sheriff‘s Office. The back up is going to be considerably higher," said Penzone.
￼￼Penzone says he knows time is of the essence, and the friendly dialogue with his counterparts has ￼continued.
"￼￼”It’s one of those moments where you really see the value in the strength of the collaboration in law-enforcement, that we are one big profession, even though we are broken into different organizations," said Penzone.