Hot Times at Tent City

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Sweltering side-by-side with parole offenders, traffic violators, thieves and drug addicts in Tent City are undocumented immigrants whose only crime is entering the country.

Hell is hot, but not as hot as a Phoenix summer.

To the inmates in Maricopa County, Hell is called Tent City.

About 2,000 inmates are housed in Korean War-era tents fully exposed to the harsh Arizona sun. With temperatures exceeding 120 degrees during the summer months, inmates receive ice water and fans to help fend off the extreme heat in addition to an indoor air-conditioned dayroom. But they sleep outside on bunk beds.

Hell has guards.

With the watchful eyes of two Sky Watch security towers and hulking prison guards looming, inmates are careful of their every move, lest their actions be reported to the unwavering Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Even the walls have eyes in Tent City. Facial recognition software monitors each inmate and K-9 units sniff out defiance.

Hell has torture.

Inmates have little options for entertainment. There is a small television inside the dayroom and plenty of open space out in the yard, but those few comforts do little to break up the relentless monotony in Tent City. Inmates are forbidden to work out but can choose to be put on a chain gang to help pass the day.

Hell has humiliation.

To prevent contraband from entering the facilities inmates are issued black and white prison stripped uniforms and pink underwear.

Hell has a price.

Tours of Tent City are available to the public.

[media-credit name=”Diana Inocencio¬†| Staff Photographer” align=”aligncenter” width=”200″][/media-credit]

Inmate Robert Holden tells stories about life in Tent City, including their recipe for "burritos" consisting of crushed Fritos and water.


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  • Joe Fong

    The prisoners should’nt have any complains about conditions and food. No one invited them to live there. Remember….Don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time! They should try jail time in Mexico, S. American jails, Chinese jails, etc. You’d opt for Tent City in a heart beat!