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FLORENCE — Total state prison population has declined by almost 4,000 inmates in the last year, making it easier for the state to close North Unit in Florence and transfer inmates and employees, a state corrections spokesman said.

Town Manager Brent Billingsley told the Town Council last week that it appeared the state was following through on Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to close Arizona State Prison-Florence Complex, with a consistent lowering of the prison population.

Florence Complex includes the now-empty North Unit, which once held nearly 1,000 minimum custody inmates. The correctional officers who used to work there have been reassigned to Eyman Complex just two miles down the street.

Eyman “has frequently experienced nearly 60% staff vacancies. As a result, no employees have lost their job or been relocated to another geographic location. In fact, these moves will enhance public safety and the safety of our officers,” Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, said by email in response to questions from PinalCentral.

He declined to comment on whether the state has a timeline for closing Florence Complex, or the state’s plans for the property once it is empty.

Florence Complex, which consists of Central, Kasson, East and South Units, had 2,806 inmates earlier this week. At this time last year, it was at capacity with more than 3,600. The most recent figures are available on the ADCRR COVID-19 Dashboard at https://corrections.az.gov/adcrr-covid-19-dashboard under the column “Daily Total Population.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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