An overcrowded jail known as Tent City-created by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to combat overcrowding in jails-will soon shutter, his successor Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a press conference Tuesday.
Penzone put this new committee together in his first 100 days and said they would be in charge of major issues affecting the Sheriff's Office and nearly immediately he tasked them with figuring out what to do with Tent City.
Officials said Tent City was created to provide "quick and low-priced beds" for inmates. He made male inmates wear pink underwear and dressed all prisoners in black and white striped jumpsuits, as in 1930's movies.
Sheriff Penzone stated that the facility does not deter criminals, is not cost efficient, and is not tough on criminals. After losing his re-election in Maricopa County, Arizona in November of 2016, and after learning that he would be standing trial for criminal contempt charges related to his racist actions as sheriff, Arpaio has just lost his representation as his attorney resigned from the case amid ethics concerns. Closing it would undo a critical piece of Arpaio's six-term legacy.
The decision comes after Penzone appointed a committee in January to determine the fate of the outdoor facility, which opened in August 1993 with surplus military tents.
Penzone says Maricopa County could save $4.5 million per year by moving the inmates to other jails. He said Tent City would hold more than 2,000 inmates, and called it a low-priced solution to building a new jail.
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"In part because it got them out of the prison - it was more fresh air - more freedom of movement, freedom of communication when you're out in the tent yard area - so the inmates didn't see this as punitive at all - they saw them as actually an opportunity", Hepburn said. "We have the room".
"The bad news is that the rest of the country thinks that we're that sort of person, who would abuse and humiliate our prisoners and put them in such harsh situations", Grant said.
"Economically, it's a problem now", said Woods.
"Closing Tent City doesn't mean you aren't going to jail in Maricopa County". At its peak, the facility housed 1,700 inmates, according to Penzone.
Arizona State University's LaDawn Haglund is an associate professor in ASU's School of Social Transformation and the founder of ASU's 2017 Human Rights Film Festival, taking place Friday, April 7th through Sunday, April 9th.
"You can justify them - if you feel you want to enact an extra pound of retribution".