ARIZONA NEWS

Last inmates leave Phoenix’s Tent City, jail formally closes

Oct 10, 2017, 8:17 AM | Updated: 11:22 am

(AP Photo)...

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — A Phoenix jail that has drawn attention across the country has formally shut down after nearly 25 years. The last inmates of Tent City left over the weekend.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone confirmed the closure Tuesday to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

The first-term sheriff announced in April the site would no longer be used to house inmates.

The controversial outdoor jail was opened by his predecessor, Joe Arpaio, in 1993.

The jail, where primarily low-level offenders served their sentences, was deemed inadequate by Amnesty International in 1997.

During a brutal heatwave in 2003, Arpaio told inmates to stop complaining about the conditions. Temperatures inside the tents had reached 145 degrees.

Workers began taking the tents down in May and authorities had begun to move the nearly 800 inmates to other jails before then.

Maximum capacity at the 7-acre site near 29th Avenue and Durango Street was surrounded by stun fences and had a pair of watch towers. Deputies and K-9s also patrolled the facility.

Penzone said closing the jail would save over $4 million.

After the closure was announced, Arpaio said it was a mistake.

“Let them build more jails,” the former lawman said in April, adding that it will cost “millions of dollars to handle all the people who will be coming into the jail systems.”

He said the outdoor jail eased overcrowding at other jails.

“I’m proud of the fact that I started this,” Arpaio said.

“Once you get those tents down, you will never get them up again because the city of Phoenix has to issue a permit — Do you think the city will issue a permit when half of the city council hates the tents? They will be gone forever and that’s sad.”

Penzone has said the jail could become a no-kill animal unit.

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Last inmates leave Phoenix’s Tent City, jail formally closes