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Former Tent City site to treat 500-plus inmates for opioid addiction

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
LISTEN: Sheriff Paul Penzone

PHOENIX — More than 500 inmates will be treated for opioid addictions in an area that formerly housed the Tent City jail, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Wednesday.

In an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM‘s Mac & Gaydos, Penzone said the agency’s Mosaic program, which is a drug recovery program that is housed within the detention center, has existed for some time and is now getting a new home in order to accommodate more inmates.

“All we did was we took the one structure that existed where Tent City used to be — and it was a physical structure that was climate-controlled, air-conditioned, everything — it was called a day room, and converted that,” Penzone said.

The renovations included repairing some of the beds and converting the day room into a dormitory. The renovations were completed at no cost to taxpayers, Penzone said.

The new changes will allow the program to serve more than 550 inmates each year, compared to the 300 that used to be treated by Mosaic.

“We can now house inmates who are going through the recovery program with the hope of health,” Penzone said.

Penzone said the Mosaic program has been successful in the past and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officials are hoping to expand it in order to keep inmates out of jail, make the streets safer and allow more money to be invested in education versus incarceration.

“When a person is on the street with an opioid addiction, they pose as much of a threat to this community as to their own health,” Penzone said.

“During their time in custody, we can provide them with a program that already exists, is already staffed, already has all these elements and try to help them help themselves,” he added.

Penzone said expanding the Mosaic program is a win-win for both the inmates and the sheriff’s office.

“There’s no freebies here. All we’re trying to do is help you overcome this addiction so that when you return to this community you have a chance to be healthy, to be productive and not return.”

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