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Penzone doesn’t want new intake facility to open during virus outbreak

(MCSO Rendering)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone doesn’t want to open the county’s new intake facility while coronavirus is spreading because of its interactive design.

The south Phoenix facility, which is scheduled to open April 5, is built around face-to-face interaction and direct supervision, Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Tuesday.

Penzone said that if the facility is opened, his employees and detainees would more susceptible to COVID-19 since they’d be in such close proximity.

“Just by sheer design, it doesn’t make sense to open that facility right now,” Penzone said.

Penzone penned a letter to county governmental officials and stakeholders on Friday detailing his reasoning behind his opposition of opening the new facility.

The sheriff noted the facility’s design conflicts with health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in addition to his own concerns.

Penzone wants to keep his employees healthy and working during the challenging time.

“My No. 1 responsibility is to ensure the safety and health of our employees so they can ensure the safety and well-being of the community,” Penzone said.

If the jail opening was to be delayed, Penzone said he would be open to temporarily transforming it to serve the needs of the health care community.

State health officials have discussed using larger facilities as temporary hospital facilities if regular facilities run out of room.

The intake center is 190,000 square feet and has space for 1,600 beds by itself. The entire complex spans 500,000 square feet.

“If things never come to fruition and things work out for the best, that’s great,” Penzone said. “I just want to make sure we’re a good partner to our community at large when it relates to health needs as much as public safety needs.”

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