Facing pressure, change made at DOC Reentry Center in north Phoenix

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The Arizona Department of Corrections said on Thursday the Maricopa Reentry Facility won't allow sex offenders. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The Arizona Department of Corrections said on Thursday the Maricopa Reentry Facility won't allow sex offenders. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Facing mounting pressure from neighbors and Arizona politicians, the Arizona Department of Corrections changed its policy regarding the Maricopa Reentry Center in north Phoenix.

The agency announced on Thursday it will no longer place sex offenders released from prison at the facility near Interstate 17 and Happy Valley Road.

[READ MORE: Angry homeowners plan to keep up fight with AZ Dept. of Corrections]

"We believe this will allow us to address community concerns and protect public safety. Our goal is to continue working in conjunction with the community and to keep an open dialogue," the ADC said in an email.

The facility, which opened several months ago, is designed to help released offenders find a home or a job, as they transition back into society.

Those convicts housed at the facility included drug dealers, murderers and until Thursday's move, sex offenders.

It is not clear where those sex offenders will be transferred to instead upon their release. We reached out ADC Spokesman Andrew Wilder to find out but did not hear back Thursday.

Community activist Susan Hoffland said earlier in the week that even though sex offenders are excluded from certain areas, it's not enough to make families feel safe.

"The exclusion zones are where offenders cannot go, like a school campus," said Hoffland. "But what if our children are walking to school? That's not included, if they are shopping or in neighborhoods, they are free to be."

[READ MORE: Phoenix homeowners considering protest, lawsuit against AZ Dept. of Corrections]

Hoffland has set up a Facebook page where neighbors can discuss their thoughts, concerns and next plan of action.

It currently has more than 4,000 participants.

Hoffland said Thursday's decision brought a great sense of relief to their community but she says their fight is not over. 

"The next step is what about the violent offenders? Those who have committed murders, or armed robberies? Those type of offenders are still coming to this type of center," she said.

Ideally, they would like to see the program relocated entirely to a less family-centric area.

Julie Read, who also helped bring attention to the center's opening in their community, says she wants to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.

"This isn't a 'not in my backyard' story. This is a not in anyone's backyard story," Read said. "I don't want any community in Arizona to have this facility pop up in their backyard without community consent and community input."

The ADC posted answers to frequently asked questions on its website to better inform the public about what takes place at the reentry facility.

You can see the information by visiting https://corrections.az.gov/about/directors-office/media-relations/frequently-asked-questions-about-maricopa-reentry-center.

There are no plans to close or relocate the center, said an ADC spokesperson.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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