Criminal Justice

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City jail is closing

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Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joseph Sohm /

The man who defeated Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in an election battle has announced he is closing Arpaio’s open-air, Tent City jail.

Sheriff Paul Penzone said at a press conference Tuesday that inmates actually prefer to be housed in the tent city, and closing it will save about $4.5 million a year. The Arizona Republic, the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories.

“This facility is not a crime deterrent, it is not cost-efficient, and it is not tough on criminals,” Penzone said. “That may have been the intent when it was first opened. But this facility became more of a circus atmosphere for the general public. Starting today, that circus ends and these tents come down.”

When Arpaio opened Tent City in 1993, he touted it as a money-saving alternative to jails that would serve as a deterrent to criminals. Inmates had to wear pink underwear and striped uniforms and had to eat meatless meals.

Arpaio told the New York Times in an interview that his Tent City was “going to go down in history as one of the greatest incarceration programs in our country.” He suggested that President Donald Trump could use the tents on the border for immigrants who enter the country illegally.

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