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.
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)
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)
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.
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