Tent City: An outside jail in the desert

Another interesting tour although we traveled outside of Mesa for this one to 2939 W. Durango St. in Phoenix.

What is Tent City?

The Tents Jail was begun in 1993 when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was able to obtain some surplus military tents. These tents were set up in an area adjacent to one of the existing Maricopa County Jails in Phoenix. Sheriff Arpaio had previously decided that he would not release any inmates due to jail overcrowding, and housing sentenced inmates in the tents seemed a good solution. Funding for the project was minimal (less than $300,000 vs. $10 million for a new building), including the cost for cement necessary for base pads, secure fencing, and electric costs for heating, cooling and lights. (from MCSO website: https://www.mcso.org/JailInformation/TentCity.aspx)


Tent City Jail Amenities:

Two Sky Watch Towers for security.
Stun fences around the perimeter.
Facial recognition computer software for inmate identification.
K-9 units and patrol deputies for additional security.
Classification Unit conducts background checks on inmates before they are
housed in the tents so that dangerous or predatory individuals
are not placed there.

From the parking lot to the entrance of Tent City Jail.

Sheriff Arpaio has added a few improvements at the Tents Jail, including four Sky Watch Towers for security, stun fences around the perimeter, and facial recognition computer software for inmate identification. K-9 units and patrol deputies have been added for additional security. The Classification Unit conducts background checks on inmates before they are housed in the tents, so that dangerous or predatory individuals are not placed there. (from the MCSO website)

It’s hard to see in the photo but the “Vacancy” light is on.
from the slot
A view from the roof (not my photo – found online at Zimbio.com).
Inmates are brought into this area at the back where they strip down and put on prison uniforms. They are checked outside and inside for contraband.
Other than the striped prison uniform, everything else is dyed pink. Our detention officer/tour guide said a few years ago the prison system was buying 75,000 pairs of underwear a year because when inmates were released they would wear them home. The sheriff decided to have everything white dyed pink so it would be recognizable and the inmates would have to leave them behind so they could be reused, that also includes socks, towels and blankets.
Pink boxers at left.
All inmates housed here work jobs (eight hours every other day) and are housed in tents with others who have the same job.
A fan inside the tent area where the inmates sleep.
Some inmates in this tent were sleeping in the morning after working a graveyard shift.
A collection of contraband confiscated at the jail. A lot of things are smuggled in inside body cavities.
This is the area where they eat and can hang out during the day if it’s hot outside. They are free to move from outside to inside. They can read or watch TV, eat snacks they purchase from the commissary. Showers are also available during the day.

Are religious or educational services held in the jails? Drug treatment programs? Job training?
There are many religious and educational services available to qualified inmates. Religious services are multi-denominational, including Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish. All programs/services are voluntary, other than educational programs for remanded juveniles, which are required. Drug treatment and work programs are currently available only to sentenced inmates. The work program encompasses a variety of jobs, including food services, warehouse, general building maintenance, janitorial, landscaping, road surfacing, and others. “Qualified” inmates are those inmates who have acceptable disciplinary behavior. (from the MCSO website)

Inmates are allowed to use this Securus ConnectUs technology for 20-minute, outgoing video calls, which is like Skype. There is a fee per call, which pays for the service and the county retains a small percentage.
Our guard said this “video visitation” has cut down on contraband being brought in from visitors.
Inside the security area with cameras throughout the jail.

Q: What is the difference between a jail and a prison?

A: Jails are managed by the county sheriff, usually an elected law enforcement position. They house men and women (inmates) that are awaiting trial. Jails also house anyone sentenced or convicted to up to one year in custody. People that work in jails are referred to as detention officers.

Prisons, on the other hand, are managed and run by the state government under the direction of the elected governor. Prisons house the more serious CONVICTED offenders (prisoners) – those whose sentences are longer than one year. Employees of state prison systems are called correctional officers.


Inmates can receive medical care ($10 copay) or prescriptions ($5 copay).
A medical examining room.
Males and females are housed in separate areas of Tent City and have no contact. Here we were looking into the women’s dining area and day room.

Want to see Tent City for yourself?

Anyone can take a tour  by calling: (602) 876-5551. Adults only (ages 18 and over. Please provide full names and dates of birth when calling to schedule the tour)

  • Tours will be conducted by Tents jail staff
  • Group size: up to 5 adults, no tour buses
  • Time and date availability to be determined by Tents Jail Administration
  • Dress standards apply. (Business casual is appropriate.)
  • Other guidelines/requirements may be established by Tents Jail Administration.

For more on Tent City: https://www.mcso.org/JailInformation/TentCity.aspx

Members of Mesa Leadership class who attended this tour.




Want to get into Southeast Valley politics? City and state politicians share the good and the bad

Jill Adair, Special for The Republic | azcentral.com

If you’re looking to local politics as a great place to get involved and serve your community, you may want to consider other, more difficult, areas of the job that will include compromise on issues, bickering partisan politics, repercussions of voting outside your party’s caucus, long hours, dealing with budget constraints and persistent lobbyists seeking to turn your vote.

“It’s the hardest job that I absolutely love,” said Kevin Thompson, Mesa City Councilmember from District 6, speaking to our recent Mesa Leadership class.

Coleman Sherwood Thompson
Addressing Mesa Leadership class about the local legislative process is State Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Dist. 16 (at left), State Sen. Andrew Sherwood, D-Dist. 26 (center), and Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson.

At our class – focused on city and local government – we learned that while public service is commendable, it does have considerable challenges.

Candace Cannistraro
Mesa’s Budget Director Candace Cannistraro gives an overview of the city’s budget.

For the rest of the story, click here: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/mesa-contributor/2016/03/14/behind-scenes-local-southeast-valley-politics/81671492/

Eric Emmert
Lobbyist Eric Emmert explains what he does to influence policy-making.



Falcon Field: Mesa’s First Airport

falcon field

Our Mesa Leadership tour today was to Falcon Field, in northeast Mesa. We got to go into the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower to see how the air traffic controllers manage incoming and outgoing aircraft. (No photos in the control room were allowed.)

Falcon Field is a general aviation airport owned and operated by the city of Mesa. Located in northeast Mesa, Falcon Field is minutes from hotels and resorts, major league spring training baseball, outdoor recreation, entertainment, shopping, Arizona State University and other metro area cities.

(Top aerial photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingsnstuff/7340111016)


Falcon Field serves as a reliever to Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airports, the region’s two commercial service hubs. It is convenient to three major freeways, including the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway, the 101 Freeway north-south corridor, and Highway 60 Superstition Freeway east-west corridor.


Airport amenities include:

  • More than 700 based aircraft.
  • Two runways of 5,100 and 3,800 feet accommodate a wide variety of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
  • FAA air traffic control tower.
  • Fixed-base operator provides competitive fuel prices and pilot services.
  • Three national car rental firms located on-airport.
  • More than 80 on-airport businesses provide aviation services – fueling, maintenance and repairs, inspections, avionics, aircraft painting and aircraft interiors – to support aircraft operations, manufacturing, or research & development activities.
  • Aircraft charters, recreational, sight-seeing and photography flights, and flight instruction are offered by multiple on-airport businesses.
  • Near-perfect flying weather with 325+ days of sunshine annually
  • On-airport parcels with runway/taxiway access are available for immediate development.
  • Variety of unique hangar facilities available to fit business needs.
  • Highly competitive, business friendly lease terms.
  • Surrounding 1,000-acre business district offers a wide range of affordable options. Available properties can accommodate the smallest start-up to an industry leader requiring thousands of square feet. Six industrial parks are located throughout the district, creating an ideal environment for small to large manufacturing and commercial enterprises.


Did you know?

Falcon Field got its start before World War II when Hollywood producer Leland Hayward and pilot John H. “Jack” Connelly founded Southwest Airways with funding from friends like Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, Hoagy Carmichael and others. Southwest Airways operated two other airfields in Arizona — Thunderbird Field No. 1 (now the site of Thunderbird School of Global Management) and Thunderbird Field No. 2 (now the site of Scottsdale Airport) — to train pilots from China, Russia and 24 other Allied nations. Falcon was to be Thunderbird Field III and would train British pilots.

But the British said they’d like the field to be named after one of their birds, and thus Falcon Field opened as the No. 4 British Flying Training School (BFTS). There were six BFTS airfields in the U.S., in Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, California and Arizona.

In September 1941 the first cadets of the Royal Air Force arrived. They trained in Stearman PT-17s and North American Aviation AT-6s. The good weather, wide-open desert terrain, and lack of enemy airpower provided safer and more efficient training than was possible in England. Even so, twenty-three British cadets, one American cadet and four instructors were killed and are now buried in the Mesa City Cemetery, along with several colleagues who have since died of natural causes. Several thousand pilots were trained there until the RAF installation was closed at the end of the war. The City of Mesa purchased the field from the U.S. government for $1.

From 1945-65 the field was leased out to industrial interests, including Talley Defense Systems, Astro Rocket Inc., Rocket Power Inc., the Gabriel Company and others.

Eventually it became a civil airfield, and is now owned and operated by the city of Mesa. Falcon Field is the home of CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, the largest flight school in the world. Student pilots from Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Vietnam fly out of Falcon Field. Since 1976 Falcon Field has been the home of Airbase Arizona, one of the largest units in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) which operates a flying B-17G “Sentimental Journey” and a B-25J “Maid in the Shade” among other aircraft.

(This information was from Wikipedia.)

For more information on Falcon Field, go to: http://www.mesaaz.gov/business/falcon-field-airport



We also got to tour the Mesa Police Department’s Aviation Unit, based at Falcon Field. We were given a presentation about the history and success of the program.


“Don’t bother to run…you’ll just go to jail tired!”


Did you know?

Mesa Police helicopters average nearly 8 flight hours per day, seven days per week, and answers an average of 18 calls each day. Each year the helicopter proves to be an invaluable law enforcement tool, and its average response time to a scene is 54 seconds. The Aviation Section, since employing the helicopter, has assisted in recovering nearly $18,000,000 in stolen property and in locating over 600 missing persons (most of whom have been lost children).

From: http://mesaaz.gov/residents/police/divisions/aviation-unit-falcon-field


Currently there are two fixed-wing aircraft: a Cessna 172N Skyhawk and a Cessna P210 Centurion. The Cessna Centurion’s primary roles are to provide aerial surveillance, conduct large-area searches and various transport services. The Cessna 172N Skyhawk is utilized for primary pilot training, currency and patrol functions, when needed.


For more information, go to: http://mesaaz.gov/residents/police/divisions/aviation-unit-falcon-field


Bird’s Eye View: SRP Watershed Helicopter Ride

What an amazing experience today as part of #MesaLeadership2016! We’ve been earning points for the classes, tours, shadowing and ride-alongs that we’ve been doing throughout the year and the 14 who had the most points got to go on a 2-hour tour today on an SRP helicopter to see where all the Valley’s water and electricity comes from. From SRP headquarters we flew north out of the Valley along the Verde River over Bartlett Dam/Lake and Horseshoe Dam/Lake. The we went over the top of Mount Ord, which is 7,128 feet. Then we went along the Salt River, including Theodore Roosevelt Dam/Lake, Horse Mesa Dam/Apache Lake, Mormon Flat Dam/Canyon Lake, Steward Dam/Saguaro Lake and Granite Reef Dam. The views were incredible and what a perspective to see it all from above! Thank you, SRP and Mesa Leadership, for this grand Arizona adventure!

You know it’s going to be a good day when the sunrise is this beautiful!
Our tour started in the SRP room at the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park.
We learned a lot about the history of SRP and its goals in meeting the water and power needs of an ever-growing metropolitan Phoenix area.
Our ride.




Instructions from the pilot.
This helicopter fits pilot + 14.
Patti might fly us instead!


Settling in.
That’s Sharon in the front seat as co-pilot.
We are ready for takeoff!
Here we go!
Scottsdale, looking north.
Looking northeast.
Agriculture on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Interesting sites in the East Valley.
There is a Bald Eagle nesting in a tree just north of Loop 202.



The helicopter’s shadow.
Arizona Canal in the northeast Valley.
Heading toward Fountain Hills.
More of the canal and Fountain Hills.



An interesting little cemetery near Fort McDowell.
The community of Rio Verde, north of Fountain Hills.
The Verde River.



Bartlett Dam and Lake on the Verde River.




Continuing north along the Verde River.


Horseshoe Dam and Lake.


Flying through Matazal Mountains, a mountain range about 30-45 miles northeast of Phoenix.
This area was so interesting with the rock formations and outcroppings.


We flew over Mt. Ord, which is 7,128 feet high.


Beeline Highway.


Michael viewing the landscape at 110 mph.


Heading toward Punkin Center.


Roosevelt Lake, the largest reservoir on the Salt River.


The lake, about 80 miles northeast of Phoenix, was created in 1911 when the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was completed. At that time the dam was the largest masonry dam in the world and the lake was the largest man-made lake.
The dam’s purpose was flood control, generation of electricity and harnessing the water for irrigation. In 1996 the dam was raised by 70 feet.
Heading back toward Phoenix along the Salt River.
The Apache Trail, which was constructed to get workers to the dam, now traveled by brave motorists.


Boat dock at Apache Lake.


In this cliff is an ancient Indian dwelling.
Closer view of the cave. Not sure how they got up to that as it would be quite a climb!
Farther back – this cave can be seen only from a helicopter.
Horse Mesa Dam, which creates Apache Lake.


SRP employees sometimes stay in the houses here on Horse Mesa.


Canyon Lake.
Weavers Needle in the Superstition Mountains in the background.


Mormon Flat Dam, which creates Canyon Lake.


Stewart Mountain Dam (at far left) creates Saguaro Lake.


Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch near Bulldog Cliffs along the Salt River.


Pebble Beach and Blue Point Bridge over the Salt River.
Wild horses in the Salt River (center of photo).
Hard to see but in the water in the center of the photo is another herd of wild horses.


Confluence of the Salt and Verde rivers.


CAP Canal and Salt River. Each can give and take water for the Valley.
South Canal goes to Mesa.
Aquifer recharge for the Arizona desert.


Susan and Jerry.


Homeless camp along the Salt River.
A view of Mesa.
Loop 202 in north Mesa.
Bass Pro Shop on the 202 and Dobson.
The new Wrigleyville West (go, Cubs!)
Interchange at loops 101 and 202.
ASU’s Karsten Golf Course.
Tempe Town Lake on the Salt River (being drained for a new dam).
Construction at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Buildings on the south side of Tempe Town Lake with A Mountain behind them.
Old and new Mill Avenue bridges.
Tempe Center for the Arts on Tempe Town Lake. Dam construction on right.
Airplane flying east out of Sky Harbor Airport.
Where does this roundabout go?
Heading back to SRP.
Papago Golf Course.
A safe landing and a wonderful flight!
Group photo with our amazing pilot!
A great day and a great experience!
Morgan gets a photo in the pilot’s seat.
Rob is flying next time!