Joe Arpaio’s Infamous and Inhumane Tent City Jail Officially Shut Down

An undocumented immigrant exercises outside his tent at the Maricopa County “Tent City Jail” on April 30, 2010, in Phoenix. (John Moore/Getty Images)

In 1993, now-former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio opened his infamous Tent City outdoor jail, supposedly as an answer to the problem of overcrowding in Phoenix’s jails. Tent City was a source of controversy for the entirety of its existence, and this weekend, it finally closed for good, just 10 months shy of its 25-year anniversary.

AZCentral reports that the remaining inmates housed at the “facility” were taken to a county jail located a few blocks away.


Current Sheriff Paul Penzone—who beat Arpaio in last November’s election—made closing Tent City a priority, according to AZCentral. He announced in April that the facility would be closing, referring to its tents as a “circus” rather than a crime deterrent.

Penzone said at the time that the facility—which cost taxpayers $8.6 million last year to remain open—would be closed over a period of six months to allow time to determine where and how the inmates on work release would be housed.

Closing the facility will reportedly save taxpayers approximately $4.5 million per year.

Tent City inmates were made to wear pink underwear and slept outside in the Phoenix heat, which can reach upward of 120 degrees during the summertime. Critics called the conditions cruel, while supporters said that the inmates housed there were getting what they deserved.


On Monday, Penzone told AZCentral: “This is another step in the stabilization of this office and its operations. My focus is to find more effective ways to reduce recidivism while creating a safe environment for our employees.”

Arpaio told AZCentral Monday evening that his successor could do whatever he wanted.


“It’s been a great program, and I stand by it,” Arpaio said. “[But] he’s the sheriff now.”

Sheriff’s officials have not yet said what will be done with the land Tent City occupied.


Read more at AZCentral.

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Monique Judge

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.