Sheriff Paul Penzone details MCSO’s new coronavirus protocols
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone led a press conference on Thursday in which he described the changes his agency has taken amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In an attempt to slow transmission of COVID-19 among inmates and staff, Maricopa County’s jail population has been reduced from 7,100 in January to 5,550 currently, according to Penzone.
The MCSO has also halved its daily bookings to 100-150 per day.
Penzone added that all incoming inmates are screened for coronavirus by Correctional Health Services staff. Those displaying COVID-19 symptoms are housed in medical observation until test results are confirmed — typically 7-8 days.
The organization and placement of new inmates — who could bring COVID-19 into the jail system — has also been modified.
“Those are the ones that pose the greatest threat,” Penzone said.
“We group them and we keep them collectively together in smaller groupings, and that continues for 14 days. They are moved as a controlled population … If anyone inside that population becomes symptomatic, they are also drawn out and put under medical observation.”
In order to protect inmates and detention staff, Penzone noted that all inmates are provided a surgical mask upon arrival at an MCSO facility.
“They get one mask,” Penzone said. “If they request additional masks, they are provided … We do not deny them these masks.”
Inmates are provided the masks at no cost, along with various cleaning supplies and soap.
All detention officers wear N95 face masks.
High touch areas at department facilities are sanitized at the start and end of every day, as are deputy patrol vehicles, Penzone said.
While 21 inmates have displayed virus-related symptoms are are currently under observation, there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 among MCSO’s jail population.
To safeguard jail and general populations, volunteers and non-employee facilitators are not permitted at MCSO facilities.
Inmates can receive legal counsel through a glass partition, but they may also do so through the use of an electronic tablet, which have been deployed at all department facilities.
Tablets have also been provided to inmates for contacting family members or clergy.
Penzone concluded by noting the decrease in Maricopa County tax revenue due to the spread of coronavirus.
Going forward, he said that the MCSO will continue working with the County Budget Office and county’s board of supervisors to allocate limited resources in an effective manner.