Tent City Jail Is Coming Down

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 12:12am
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 12:26pm
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(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
Workers take down the Tent City Jail.
(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
Workers take down the Tent City Jail.
(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
More than half of the inmates housed in Tent City have been moved to other jails.

Earlier this year, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone pledged to close Tent City Jail. On Wednesday, the tents were disrobed of their green canvas coverings and their metal skeletons were dismantled.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) says more than 400 inmates housed in Tent City have been moved to other facilities, primarily Estrella and Durango jails.

Sheriff Paul Penzone hasn’t made a decision on what to do with the space. But Penzone said he is considering relocating the MASH Unit, which houses abused and neglected animals, to the location. He suggested a private entity could fund the construction of a new, climate-controlled facility.

“We can create a program where detainees are more actively involved and responsible for the care and compassion of the animal population that we care for,” Penzone said.

The tents were a signature program of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But Penzone has called the jail costly and inefficient. The new sheriff said his administration will focus on one goal with regard to detention:

"Take those who are detained and put them in a position to curb their behavior so that when they return to the general population of our community, they become productive,” Penzone said.

There are still about 300 inmates on work furlough staying overnight in tents on MCSO property. The agency is still trying to address their housing arrangements. Some detention officers stationed at Tent City continue to guard the work furlough population; the rest have been transferred to other facilities.

The Tent City Jail was constructed in 1993 to address overcrowding. The jail cost the county almost $9 million a year to operate.

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