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Posted on March 11, 2016 in Crime

The Reality of Tent City – And Why You Don’t Want to Be Sentenced There

Some pretty intense law enforcers have been depicted on TV and in our favorite movies, like Warden Norton in Shawshank Redemption or Harry Calahan in Dirty Hairy. Though their brutality is what made them such famous characters, the real world is not always so ruthless. There is one real-life prison in Arizona headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, though, that could hold its own against the grisliest fictional institutions. The reality of a Tent City incarceration shocks many and is reason enough not to get convicted of a crime.

Tent City – Phoenix, Arizona

In 1993, Arpaio acquired some surplus military tents used during the Korean War, which should give you an idea of the quality and reputation this facility has maintained over the years. Needless to say, you do not want to be incarcerated in Tent City. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Minimal funding. Inmates are housed in the tents, which were a cheap solution when the facility was built. Minimal costs have been a selling point for Tent City since its establishment. Though it does have heating and cooling capabilities, these conditions are particularly rough.
  • Overcrowding. This was another objective of Arpaio’s original vision: no inmates would be released due to overcrowding.
  • Intentionally uncomfortable. Tent City is meant to deter crime. This is certainly true, though the prison does only house less serious offenders. Regardless, the jail is mentally, physically, and emotionally trying. In fact, it was built to be as uncomfortable as possible.
  • The Arizona climate climbs to over 120°F in the summer, prisoners wear pink underwear, and vegetarian meals are exclusively served. To add pain to punishment, the Food and Weather Channels make up two-thirds of the available TV programming. Inmates must also work in chain gangs under the hot dessert sun, and the facility has become something of a tourist stop, with tours available through the prison’s website.
  • Inmate abuse. Though the jail was built with (and still boasts) minimum spending and a slim budget, inmate abuse allegations and misappropriated funds have cost taxpayers approximately $200 million.

One of the more recent cases involved inmate Ernest “Marty” Atencio. Atencio was in custody for approximately two hours; during processing, he was grabbed and detained by more than 10 officers. After being wrestled to the ground, handcuffed, and tazed multiple times, he was stripped naked and placed into a “safe cell.” Atencio was later checked on and found unconscious. Officers attempted resuscitation at that point, and he was moved to a local hospital and placed on life support. Atencio later died.

Though this case is still being investigated, the family has filed a $20 million claim against the county and Sheriff Arpaio. The Atencio family was offered a $550,000 settlement, which they rejected. Similar cases have occurred throughout the jail’s history, including the assault and death of Juan Farias Mendoza. Mendoza’s wrongful death settlement cost the county $1 million.

In addition to these actions, Arpaio has housed animals in indoor cells while the inmates toiled outside, has been accused of racial profiling and bias against minorities, and other illegal activities.

Tent City has certainly served its role as a crime deterrent. However, the reality of this institution is simply brutal and often unjust. Though many convicted criminals do not end up in this jail, some do. In light of Arpaio’s profiling allegations and unlawful detainments, it’s vitally important to have a quality attorney represent your case. Remember that those who serve in Tent City are there for crimes like drug possession, theft, and assault. These charges are fairly common, and without adequate representation, these conditions could become a reality for anyone convicted in Arizona.

Work with an Experienced Phoenix Legal Team if you Face a Tent City Incarceration

If you’re facing a criminal charge in Phoenix, reach out to a qualified Phoenix criminal defense lawyer dedicated advice and thorough representation. Craig Orent has successfully tried criminal cases for decades and will tirelessly pursue justice for anyone facing accusation. Schedule a free consultation today for a personal look at your case.