Tent City -- opened by Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- to shut down

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone at a press conference

Tent City, the jail facility set up in Arizona by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, will soon be no more.

Woods, who also spoke at Tuesday's news conference, said over the years the population of Tent City has declined dramatically, to about a third of its 2,100 bed capacity, reports KPHO.

Paul Penzone said at a news conference that the almost 24-year-old Tent City complex will be closing in 45 to 60 days.

In February, Penzone said county jails would no longer honor federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants past their release dates, marking a drastic about-face for an agency that had once eagerly performed high-profile immigration raids. We're pleased to have been part of this process to provide our input. But the facility hemorrhaged cash and was not as tough on inmates as Arpaio made it out to be.

"Everything I do is geared to send a message to all the people who live in Maricopa County, that if you do something wrong, you're going to end up in the tents", Arpaio once said.

"Today, the circus ends, and the tents come down", Sheriff Penzone said during a Tuesday news conference, promising more effective solutions to housing prisoners. Their meals were meatless and their jumpsuits striped in wide black and white.

"That may have been the intent when it was first opened and there was a need, but this facility became more of a circus atmosphere for the general public, " Penzone said. The longtime sheriff was a champion of Tent City, which opened in 1993.




The media-savvy Arpaio publicized tent city widely, seemingly equally content with kindling liberal outrage as winning praise from tough-on-crime conservatives. We have five hard-walled detention centers waiting for you and your stay will not be a pleasant experience, " Penzone said in a news release.

Penzone has also cut down on the use of chain gangs in county jails, and has said the sheriff's department is working on eventually phasing out the infamous pink underwear that Arpaio had forced inmates to wear.

For Arpaio's critics, the tent city symbolized disregard for human rights and dignity.

"This decision was based off of data". He assembled an advisory committee with members from across the political spectrum to conduct a "methodical review" of the economic and safety challenges at Tent City.

"When I became sheriff I said I would run an efficient office", Penzone said.

Billed as a cost-saver, the more than 2,000-bed facility was meant to help relieve an over-crowded jail system and quickly became one of Arpaio's most high-profile acts during his six terms in office.

"The days of Arizona, I hope, of being a place where people are humiliated for the self-aggrandizing of a person are over", said Grant Woods, a chair of the jail's assessment committee.

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