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Former Tent City site will be used to rehab inmates addicted to opioids

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

PHOENIX — The area that formerly housed the controversial Tent City jail will be converted to a space designed to rehabilitate inmates with opioid addictions, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Friday.

He said the shift would “take a space that quite frankly was unproductive at best and turn it into something that could be productive, that could provide benefits” so people do not return to jail.

The facility — once an air-conditioned dayroom provided to help inmates cool off — was converted to a housing and classroom space. It was expected to open to inmates within 30 to 45 days.

The building will be used for the agency’s Mosaic program that works to address both substance abuse and behavioral issues in inmates who have a moderate-to-high risk of winding up back behind bars.

“We must function with an ultimate goal and the ultimate goal is to change behavior and to return the individual to society so they can be productive,” he said.

Dr. Dawn Noggle, the mental health director for Maricopa County Correctional Health Services, said the program does not lump inmates into one group or another. Instead, they are treated on an individual basis.

“What we know now, with this population of people, is we can’t talk about people categorically as addicts,” she said. “We have to talk about people and their individual needs.”

Noggle said the seven-week Mosaic program treats an inmate’s physical and mental health issues, along with substance abuse.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney said about half of the inmates eligible for the Mosaic program are back in jail within 12 months. He hoped that number will change.

“Our goal is that Mosaic graduates will have skills that keep them from failing and returning to unhealthy behaviors,” he said.

Penzone said the new facility will allow the Mosaic program to treat about 800 inmates annually, up from the 500 it can handle currently.

KTAR News’ Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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