Arizona sheriff to shut down famed Tent City jails complex

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For the last several years, the average population has dwindled to between 700 and 800.

The Sheriff's Office conducted additional studies on recidivism and deterrence and they showed that if you spent time in Tent City, you were no less likely to commit an offense again and end up back in there, no matter how bad the conditions.

"This facility became more of a circus atmosphere", Penzone said Tuesday. The barbed-wire-surrounded compound was part of a broader campaign by Arpaio to enact get-tough measures in his jails, such as banning cigarettes, creating inmate chain gangs and dressing them in old-time striped prison uniforms.

The detention facility became a prominent symbol of the tough-on-crime administration of Penzone's predecessor, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The announcement came at a press conference ahead of a planned protest against the facility that was scheduled for Tuesday evening.

"The circus ends and it's coming down today", Penzone said.

Running the outdoor, canvas camp was hard for detention center staff, who had to wear full gear in "very trying conditions" with "difficult dynamics", he said. He assured no inmates will be released and estimated that half of them will be moved to other jails within the next 45 to 60 days.

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He added: "I think we are doing everything we can, and I think we do not want to be in that situation again". I think it will be an interesting game for us.

Arpaio dismissed heat concerns, saying: "If our servicemen and women serve in the Middle East in extreme hot weather over there, our inmates can deal with the heat here as well in Tent City".

Arpaio declined to comment for this story.

"It's disgusting and insulting to call it a circus", he said. [The inmates] hate that place.

An inmate serving a jail sentence rests on his bed at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix in 2010. That means that although the number of inmates has decreased since 1993, the cost-per-inmate has almost doubled, county officials said. "They had no place in our community, they didn't reflect our community and we're moving on", Woods said. "It is not cost effective and it is not tough on criminals", Penzone said.

Penzone said the closure will allow him to transfer detention officers to the other jails he oversees, at a time when the Sheriff's Office is understaffed.

For one, the sheriff's office no longer issues news releases with a page-long photo of Arpaio watermarked on the background of every page.

In court papers, McDonald had argued that Arpaio had been led to believe that if he admitted to civil contempt, he could not be charged criminally. A federal judge found Arpaio and three members of his office to be in civil contempt because they allegedly violated court orders meant to keep the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office from racially profiling Latinos. I've talked with him several times over the past month or so and he really looks at this from a bigger picture - having a bigger impact on the state of the criminal justice system in our state.

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