Many are reacting after Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Tuesday his office will soon close the controversial Tent City detention facility; including the President & CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc., David Adame. "Starting today, that circus ends, and these tents come down", the former Phoenix police sergeant said.
The Arpaio-founded jail acquired an infamous reputation for holding inmates, many of whom were detained under his hardline immigration enforcement policies, outdoors in sweltering Arizona summer temperatures that often topped 110 degrees.
One tradition started by Arpaio, making inmates wear pink underwear, has already been slowly phased out. He said closing the facility will save $4.5 million a year and there is plenty of room elsewhere for Tent City's 800 or so inmates.
Penzone projected that at least half of the tent population will be moved indoors within 45-60 days. The first riot took place in 1996, when inmates protested about conditions inside. He said there was no data to show that the facility deterred crime.
Asked for comment about the closing, Arpaio said he was not going to "second-guess" Penzone's decision, but added, "If I was still the sheriff, those tents would never be gone". "I didn't do it for legacy", said Arpaio, who was beaten by Penzone in November after six terms in office.
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Critics say the complex was a way for Arpaio to garner media attention.
Arpaio dismissed heat concerns, saying: "If our servicemen and women serve in the Middle East in extreme hot weather over there, our inmates can deal with the heat here as well in Tent City".
"It's not a crime deterrent". Tent City has been the subject of numerous protests and accusations of human rights violations related to prisoner treatment over the decades.
Arpaio posted a neon "vacancy" sign on an observation tower and another sign that said more than 500,000 people had spent time in the tents. "They had no place in our community, they didn't reflect our community and we're moving on", Woods said. "The rest of the country thinks we are that sort of person who would abuse and humiliate prisoners and put them in such harsh situations", Woods said. At the press conference, Penzone asserted that there will be more than enough space in the five other detention centers in the county to house the remaining inmates from Tent City. They receive two daily meals valued around 30 cents each, according to a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine profile of Arpaio.
An attorney who leads the legal team of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants to withdraw as counsel for the ex-lawman is his upcoming criminal contempt-of-court trial.