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Title: Maricopa County's Tent City jail officially shut down
Source: The Republic | azcentral.com
URL Source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news ... fficially-shut-down/748348001/
Published: Oct 11, 2017
Author: Megan Cassidy
Post Date: 2017-10-11 09:03:40 by Willie Green
Keywords: None
Views: 60
Comments: 1

A jail that for more than two decades drew international attention for its gimmicks and the camera-ready sheriff had no such fanfare in its twilight hours.   

Tent City, Maricopa County’s infamous outdoor jail, quietly closed for business this weekend. Its remaining inmates were taken from the 7-acre compound in southwest Phoenix late Saturday night and checked into the county's Durango Jail a few blocks away.  

Tent City was the brainchild of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who opened it in 1993 to combat overcrowding in brick-and-mortar facilities.

The tents have drawn controversy since their inception. Critics alleged cruel conditions, especially during Phoenix’s scorching summers; supporters cheered incarceration there as fitting punishment for the county’s lawbreakers.  

Inmates sweltered in their pink underwear. Republican politicians, including four presidential candidates, would tour the facilities, gunning for Arpaio’s endorsement. The tents remained standing even after jail populations dwindled in recent years, and Arpaio often pointed to them to burnish his “tough-on-crime” image.

In a news release last year, Arpaio said he hoped Tent City would reach its 25th anniversary. It was 10 months shy.

For Sheriff Paul Penzone, who ousted Arpaio in last November’s election, closing Tent City was one of the first orders of business. Penzone announced the facility’s closing in April, calling the tents a “circus” rather than a crime deterrent.  

Though he campaigned as a Democrat, Penzone vowed to remove politics from the embattled agency and to base decisions on public safety and financial prudence.

Tent City cost taxpayers about $8.6 million last year to remain open. Officials in April said closing the facility would save approximately $4.5 million annually.

Penzone said in April that Tent City would be phased out over the next six months rather than shuttering on a firm date. This, he said, allowed time for the agency to determine where and how to house inmates on work release conditions, who are freed during work or school hours.

“This is another step in the stabilization of this office and its operations,” Penzone said Monday. “My focus is to find more effective ways to reduce recidivism while creating a safe environment for our employees."

Reached Monday evening, Arpaio said his successor can "do what he wants." 

"It’s been a great program and I stick by it," Arpaio said. "(But) he’s the sheriff now."

Spokesman Mark Casey said inmates have been relocated to Durango gradually over the past several days. The last 17 Tent City inmates departed at 11 p.m. Saturday, he said.

“This agency is moving on,” Casey said in an email when explaining the jail’s unceremonious ending. “There’s been way too much attention/obsession with Tents at the expense of more important issues facing MCSO and the people we serve. Tents and pink underwear are a tired, dated, narrative.”

Tent City’s full-time inmates — about 400 as of April — were transferred first, over the following several weeks. Though the figures fluctuate by day, Casey said there were about 370 inmates on a work-release or work-furlough program as of Monday morning.

Sheriff’s officials started dismantling the tents this May, and have been auctioning off items of value. The iconic “Vacancy” sign will go in storage, Casey said, as will the tents themselves. Per county guidelines, the tents’ steel frames will be cut into pieces and sold as scrap. 

Sheriff's officials have yet to disclose what they plan to do with the land.  

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#1. To: Willie Green (#0) (Edited)

The pink underwear was my favorite. That'll teach these no-goods to break the law.

Tooconservative  posted on  2017-10-11   9:09:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

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