Maricopa County limiting cases prosecuted to slow coronavirus spread

Apr 8, 2020, 11:05 AM | Updated: 3:32 pm
Correctional officers use alcohol hand sanitizer before entering the main cell block area at the Wo...
Correctional officers use alcohol hand sanitizer before entering the main cell block area at the Worcester County House Of Corrections in West Boylston, MA on Apr. 1, 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, inmates and correctional officers are taking measures to fight against the virus. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Maricopa County is working to lessen the number of cases in court to mitigate the community spread of coronavirus.

While the state is filing charges on fewer cases, they’re still prosecuting severe cases like child molesters, armed robberies and aggravated assaults Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

“We’re looking at the nature of the offense, the criminal history and the risk to the community and protecting victims so that we’re making sure that we’re only putting those that absolutely have to be in the system there,” Adel said.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported its first two cases of coronavirus among inmates on Tuesday night. Out of 42,000 inmates, 60 had been tested which yielded 48 negative results with 10 pending.

“Along with our police agencies that are arresting less people and then they’re citing and releasing, we’re reducing the number of cases that we’re charging,” Adel said.

“Those that are already out of custody or haven’t been booked into jail, we’re waiting to charge those.”

For context, Adel said that during the week of March 9, there were around 760 cases charged.

Last week, they charged 90 cases, with five of those being homicides.

The county is working with defense attorneys on pre and post-convictions to look at release conditions. They’re looking to see if they can be working members of society without being a threat to community.

As of March 27, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone suspended the work furlough and release programs to mitigate the spread.

Additionally, the diversion programs that low-level offenders would generally be placed into have been temporarily suspended because of social distancing.

Phoenix Police have also adopted similar tactics. Chief Jeri Williams said her department is arresting fewer non violent offenders and instead handing out summonses in an effort to limit crowding in jails and person-to-person contact with officers.

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Maricopa County limiting cases prosecuted to slow coronavirus spread