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INMATES “SERVING” TIME IN SHERIFF’S TENTS NEARING 500,000 MARK


ARPAIO DENOUNCES CYNICS WHO CALL FOR AN END TO TENT CITY

February 26, 2012

(Phoenix, AZ) As Tent City, the nation’s largest canvas incarceration compound quietly slides into its 19th year of operation, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is erecting a large sign on the outside the compound announcing to all visitors the number of inmates who have successfully served time in Tent City.

Borrowing from the world’s most renowned fast food chain, the sign will be updated monthly reading ‘Number of Inmates “Served.”’ Arpaio says that while some may say the sign serves little purpose, his point in erecting it is to underscore that Tent City remains an excellent facility to safely and cost effectively house inmates.

“Why would anyone call for an end to this program and the closure of Tent City?” Arpaio says. “Tent City makes room for inmates who otherwise might be released to the streets due to overcrowded jails. It’s one of the best things to have happened in the local criminal justice system.”

It’s such an efficient program, Arpaio points out, that it has been visited by four U.S. presidential candidates and a number of senators from several states.

Sheriff Arpaio opened Tent City in 1993 using inexpensive Korean War tents to house male and eventually female inmates who are sentenced to jail. Now, nearly 19 years later, over 427,000 inmates have “served” their time in the Tents Jail, including about 350,000 males and 80,000 females.

"Tent City is one of my proudest innovations,” Arpaio says, “and has long been and still continues to be a model program throughout the entire nation as an economical, safe and successful way to house a growing inmate population."

Critics of Arpaio, largely open border activists and Latino organizations, angered that several inmates housed in Tents are in fact illegal immigrants, as well as some political opponents, condemn Tent City for the harsh conditions there claiming it is an inhumane way to house criminal offenders.

And while inmates have dealt with wild temperature fluctuations, in the years of operation those conditions have caused very few medical emergencies. Most inmates work inside the jail facilities while others serve time on the Sheriff’s controversial chain gangs.

Inmates are fed very low cost meals (average meal cost looms around 30 cents each) because of the Sheriff’s aggressive search for inexpensive and gleaned food items.

Tent City remains popular with media organizations as news crews from every continent have done stories about inmate life inside Tent City. In 2000, HBO Host Bill Maher did a series of four shows from Tent City and in 2005, a British television did a popular inmate swap series from Tent City.

Please join the Sheriff as he unveils the new Time “Served” signage on Monday, February, 27, 2012 at the West Gate of Tent City at 2:45PM. Enter from Durango Road, just west of Estrella Jail to the West Gate Entrance. Contact the on-call PIO via email for further information. . 

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