Sheriff Penzone unveils possible plan for Tent City during 100 day speech

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Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone spoke about his first 100 days in office. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone spoke about his first 100 days in office. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MCSO moved about half the inmates from Tent City to other facilities. (Source: MCSO) MCSO moved about half the inmates from Tent City to other facilities. (Source: MCSO)

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone has served 100 days since taking office and spoke on Wednesday about one of the biggest changes in the County Sheriff's Office: the closing of Tent City.

He provided the update on the shutting down of Tent City during a speech at the Arizona Grand Resort in front of elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders.

[RAW VIDEO: Sheriff Penzone remarks on first 100 days in office]

While the closure isn't complete, about half of Tent City's 700 to 800 inmates have been transferred in recent weeks. The remainder will be relocated in the coming months.

"By eliminating Tent City, we project savings of $4.5 million," Penzone said.

[READ MORE: Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to shut down controversial 'Tent City']

No jobs have been lost. Those who were working at Tent City will be moved to other jails, according to Penzone.

Once it's officially closed, which is months away, it'll leave the Sheriff's Office with a large piece of unused land near 31st Avenue and Durango Street.

"We're still evaluating options. We're going to make sure it's a productive space," Penzone said

One of those options includes turning the area into a place where inmates would work with shelter animals in an effort to teach inmates compassion and discourage them from committing future crimes.

MCSO already has the MCSO Animal Safe Haven (MASH) Unit that helps care for abused and neglected animals that have been seized in investigations. Only sentenced female inmates care for these rescued dogs, cats and other domesticated animals, according to MCSO. The unit was started in 2000 by Penzone's predecessor, Joe Arpaio, who also opened Tent City in 1993.

"Right now our animals are housed inside the oldest jail. Right now we give them life, but not quality of life," Penzone said.

Penzone is looking for private funding to convert the Tent City site.

"A program to educate on compassion, reduce recidivism and train some service dogs. These are all visions," Penzone said.

Another major action that has gained attention is the new processes with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The sheriff has taken a softer approach to illegal immigration than Joe Arpaio did, which leads some Republican lawmakers to suggest this is why they stripped some funding from MCSO. 

While ICE agents will remain in local jails, the county won't hold suspected illegal immigrants after they are deemed eligible to be released. 

[RELATED: Sheriff Paul Penzone changes jail rule for immigrants]

Penzone says the office's accomplishments also include work on fugitive apprehension, crimes against children and the elderly, the opioid epidemic, community outreach and fiscal responsibility. 

"I'm asking for patience, but we're working in the right direction," Penzone said.

He also said MCSO will eliminate outside counsel and save about $1.5 million in the budget.

[RELATED: Sheriff Paul Penzone changes procedure on facilitating ICE courtesy holds]

Penzone unveiled a brand called one1MCSO as a way to show unity and diversity through the Sheriff's Office.

"one1MCSO is our department’s pledge to respect the law, respect each other, and respect the people we serve," Penzone said.

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