State to close Florence prison to save taxpayer dollars, governor says

Gov. Doug Ducey to close Florence corrections facility

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - During his State of the State address, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he’ll be closing the 100-year-old state prison in Florence.

He says that will save the state taxpayers $274 million because it's in need of upgrades and repairs.

The prison houses about 4,200 inmates. Once the prison closes, one question remains: Where do the remaining inmates go?

Many will likely go to other facilities such as the Eyman wing.

Others, the governor suggests, may go to those county facilities that will accept them.

In southern Arizona, that seems to be slim pickings.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said there’s no room, so its a no on state prisoners.

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier has one response: No.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said “no, it’s a state responsibility.”

However, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said he’s keeping an open mind.

"I'd be open to discussing it with him," Estrada said. "Whether or not I'm just not going to say at this time."

Estrada said the biggest issue would be staffing.

The jail has capacity for nearly 300 inmates but only houses around 100 right now.

Part of the reason for that is he has only 40 corrections officers now, which is about half of what he needs.

"We don't have the personnel, we don't have the proper staffing levels," he said.

Also, the state needs certain things his jail doesn't have, like electrical outlets in the cells.

“They can cook, have microwaves and the like but we don’t have the capacity for that,” he said.

If the state would waive those, then he might reconsider.

“If I had the staff, yes I would,” he said. “I don’t want to shut the door.”

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