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Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Infamous 'Tent City Jail' Closes

Oct 12, 2017

The seven-acre "Tent City Jail" in Phoenix that helped make former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio a household name has been quietly struck once and for all after housing inmates for nearly a quarter century.

The Arizona Republic reports that prisoners from the infamous jail, made of Korean-War-era tents to alleviate overflow from more conventional facilities, were transferred late Saturday to the nearby Durango Jail.

Tent City was criticized by many for alleged cruel conditions, especially in the Phoenix summers. Others, including Arpaio, saw it as an expression of uncompromising "get-tough" approach to crime.

The jail, opened in 1993, "was a spectacle that attracted much national attention for Mr. Arpaio's unusual practices: Most inmates were issued pink underwear to wear underneath their jumpsuits, pornographic magazines were banned and the Food Channel was broadcast in the cafeteria while the inmates ate two meatless meals a day. Inmates also endured extremely hot conditions, something human rights groups criticized as cruel," according to The New York Times.

Arpaio, who was convicted earlier this year of criminal contempt for illegal detentions of undocumented immigrants, was subsequently pardoned in August by President Trump.

Arpaio expressed pride in the facility even as his successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, sought to close it.

The Republic writes:

"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."

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