FLORENCE — In a special agreement with the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Pinal County Adult Detention Center has started to house prisoners headed for the state prison.

Tuesday, 35 inmates from Pima County were booked into the Pinal jail. All of the 35 men have been sentenced and are assigned to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry program.

Under the agreement, Pinal County holds inmates for the state for 14 to 21 days to allow DOC to stagger and monitor the health of their incoming inmates.

“We have also offered to assist Pima County jails by taking in 35 sentenced inmates waiting to be transferred to ADCRR,” said Lauren Reimer, spokeswoman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. “Prior to these inmates arriving, our jail was housing around 540 inmates. We have beds for nearly 890. They will be integrated with the other inmates within our jail appropriate with their security level, and are screened by our medical staff like all incoming inmates.”

The inmates will then be transferred to a state prison once the DOC is able to take them.

Under the new plan, the county has set aside a previously empty prisoner housing unit as a quarantine area if the COVID-19 virus appears in the jail’s population.

The dedicated COVID-19 unit has bed space for up to 180 detainees, if needed.

“Right now, there are no inmates in need of quarantine. We currently have no plans to accept inmates from other facilities,” Reimer said.

According to the Arizona Daily Star on Tuesday, about a dozen inmates are being released from the Pima County jail, and other inmates set to go to state prison will instead be transferred to the Pinal County jail in a continued effort to reduce the jail population in Tucson.

The goal is to release as many inmates as possible without endangering the public to make sure there’s space in the jail in case inmates become symptomatic for the coronavirus and have to be isolated in their cells, said Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier.

According to the Star, Pima County Superior Court Judge Danelle Liwski issued an order Friday to remove bail conditions for 27 inmates who were in jail awaiting trial for victimless crimes — personal-use drugs possession, for example — Deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Cramer said. Not all of the 27 inmates were released with the order, Cramer said. Some had already been released before Friday and others were facing additional charges and could no longer be released, she said.

Cramer said she did not know how many of the 27 were actually released or set to be released.

Along with asking courts to consider ordering the release of non-violent inmates, Napier has also asked law enforcement agencies to try to find alternatives to booking offenders in jail whenever possible.

Sheriffs in all 15 counties in Arizona and the Arizona Department of Corrections agreed to halt the movement of those convicted in order to combat the potential spread of COVID-19, DOC said in a news release.

The Pima County jail population was at 1,740 on Friday. The jail’s capacity is 2,300 inmates.


Jim Headley is a reporter covering breaking news, crime and justice around Pinal County. He can be reached at jheadley@pinalcentral.com.