Interim Maricopa County Sheriff Russ Skinner continuing efforts to deter contraband in jails

Feb 29, 2024, 4:25 AM

PHOENIX — Interim Maricopa County Sheriff Russ Skinner is keeping up with plans from his predecessor on how to keep contraband out of jails.

Skinner said MCSO has stuck with Paul Penzone’s deterrent efforts, including the recently installed body scanners, and has added more tools.

Among those tools are more drug detection dogs, which helped alert deputies of an inmate who was found with drugs during the intake process earlier this month.

“[Body scanners and drug detection dogs] both have shown very, very positive results,” Skinner told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday. “I won’t say it’s eradicated it, but it has mitigated it.”

Why has MCSO stepped up contraband interception efforts?

Penzone, who stepped down Jan. 12 to take a private sector job, began increased attention on contrabands in jail in January 2023 after a detention officer accused of attempting to smuggle fentanyl and methamphetamine into a jail was arrested.

At the press conference announcing the arrest, Penzone said there were 282 incident reports for narcotics in the jails and 158 incoming inmate postcards seized by the mailroom that tested positive for being soaked in fentanyl and/or methamphetamine in 2022.

Skinner’s goal is to get that number to zero, even if everyone isn’t the biggest fan of the new technology.

“It isn’t a popular thing, especially if we’re talking employees, but we want to ensure the safety moving forward, especially the staff that’s in there and those inmates,” Skinner said.

“The more we can catch at the front end and hopefully reduce that number coming in the better. We’ll still probably see it, but if we can continue to mitigate it, that’s what we’re looking for.”

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Interim Maricopa County Sheriff Russ Skinner continuing efforts to deter contraband in jails