Sheriff Paul Penzone looking to eliminate ‘Tent City’ phrase in 2018
PHOENIX — With his predecessor running for U.S. Senate and a full year under his belt, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he wants to move forward as an agency in 2018.
In an interview with KTAR News’ 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos, Penzone said he has spent the past year cleaning up the issues under Joe Arpaio and learning the landscape of the job.
But now he said he just wants to “cut the cord on the past.” And one of the most prominent and public statements of moving forward? Eliminating the phrase “Tent City” from the public narrative.
“You know, 2018 — it’s gone, it’s in the wind,” Penzone said of the name given to Maricopa County’s former open-air jail. “Let’s stop looking back, there’s no more ‘Tent City.'”
Penzone’s comment may have been a light-hearted one, but it is another example of how the lawmaker is looking to move the agency forward from Arpaio’s 24-year reign.
Tent City was arguably one of Arpaio’s most controversial moves. The 2,000-person capacity outdoor jail opened in 1993 and was primarily used to house low-level offenders, such as those found guilty of a DUI.
The jail was deemed inadequate by Amnesty International in 1997. Prisoners often bore temperatures well over 100 degrees in the summer, were fed moldy and expired food and wore pink garments.
In April last year, Penzone announced that Tent City would close for good, saying “the circus ends and the tents come down.”
So far, a tentative plan for the space has included housing animals from the MASH unit, but Penzone said he hopes to sit down with Gov. Doug Ducey soon and finalize a plan for what to do with the space.
The Maricopa County sheriff has worked to distance himself and the office from Arpaio since he was elected into office in 2016.
But now that his predecessor has announced his run for U.S. Senate in an attempt to take Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, can Maricopa County residents expect Penzone to vote for Arpaio? Not likely, he said.
“This is an exceptional time for Arizona that we’ll see two females from either party in the general election going at it,” Penzone said, referring to Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally, who he believes will be their party’s nominees.
“We’ll have a female Senator that represents our state with integrity and represents our state with public service.”