The hot, dusty, and overcrowded Tent City jail created by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will soon be coming down, said his successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, at a press conference Tuesday.
Some hope Arpaio will become little more than a memory
An advisory committee appointed by Penzone when he took office in January made the recommendation, Raw Story reports.
“This facility is not a crime deterrent, it is not cost efficient, and it is not tough on criminals,” Penzone said.
And closing the facility will save the county $4.5 million per year, he added.
Referring to the compound as a “circus,” the sheriff said “starting today, the circus ends, and these tents come down.”
Created by Arpaio as part of his “tough on crime” approach, Tent City provided him with a measure of political muscle, and was expected to cost about $8.6 million this year.
The former sheriff said he doesn’t want to second-guess Penzone’s reasons for shuttering the facility, but added “If I was still the sheriff, those tents would never be gone.”
Then he went on to blame billionaire philanthropist George Soros for his loss to Penzone.
“George Soros got his wish,” he said. “When he pumped about $5 million against me to get me out of office, he wanted to close Tent City. So I guess he got his wish,”
Last November, Politico reported that Soros had funneled $2 million into an organization working to defeat Arpaio as part of his nationwide push to initiate criminal justice and immigration reform.
Maricopa Strong, a PAC funded by Soros, also received $500,000 from Texas billionaires Laura and John Arnold and $250,000 from Laurene Powell Jobs (the widow of Steve Jobs). Prior to this, Soros had contributed $300,000.
Arpaio gained notoriety as an immigration hard-liner who regularly sought out undocumented immigrants in Phoenix and surrounding areas. Using tactics that frequently landed him in court for racial profiling, Arpaio, lost last year’s election in a surprising defeat that was also heavily organized by Hispanic opponents, The Huffington Post reports.
Later this month, the former sheriff will appear in court on one charge of criminal contempt for failing to stop his profiling practices after being ordered to do so by a federal judge, azcentral reports. This is all part of a long-running racial profiling case headed by U.S. District Court judge G. Murray Snow.
The judge has already found Arpaio and three of his aides in civil contempt for violating his orders regarding the case, and the criminal matter has now been forwarded to U.S. District Attorney Susan Bolson.
Considering Arpaio’s obnoxious and cruel behavior, it’s no surprise that Soros wanted him out of office.
Related: Bernie Sanders’ Wife Disturbed By Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Inhumane Treatment Of ‘Tent City’ Prisoners
And Penzone is wasting little time in rolling back his former opponent’s policies, The Huffington Post reports. He has adopted a sanctuary policy of refusing to hold undocumented immigrants in custody to await federal immigration authorities in cases where they would likely be otherwise free to go.
Arpaio, 84, is basically irrelevant now, but he is still the angry little man he has always been. Currently, he’s out of sorts because of the new sheriff’s comparing his infamous compound to a circus. Why this should bother him is anyone’s guess, but it does.
“It’s not a circus — it’s not a circus. That’s insulting to all circus people,” he said, according to Raw Story. It’s disgusting, calling that a circus.” Then he appeared to reconsider. “Maybe everything I do is a circus, but let’s not insult the circus.”
“I gave the inmates a free concert — is that a circus?” he asked. “[Pamela Anderson] came when the food was changed, that’s not a circus.”
And he took a bit more time to pat himself on the back.
“I’m proud of the fact that I started this,” Arpaio added. “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 the city council hates the tents? They will be gone forever and that’s sad.”
But what’s not sad, is that inmates will no longer have to face temperatures of 129 degrees, something that’s all-too-common in Arizona’s summer heat.
Arpaio is well known for his anti-immigration stance and many inmates did not fare well at the compound, having been forced to wear pink underwear and to eat green bologna, Aol News reports.
And some people, like Alessandra Soler, are glad to see the end of an era as the facility closes. It is a “good step forward,” she said, adding that more work is still needed.
“Maricopa County’s jails are plagued by the mistreatment of pre-trial detainees and remain under federal court oversight because of the ongoing abuse of people with mental health problems,” Soler wrote in a statement.
The money saved by closing the compound, which is two decades old, should be funneled into programs and services so that these and other problems can be addressed she said.
This is the end of an era that was marred by a tiny man with a tiny heart, who thought it was fine for his inmates to broil under the Arizona sun under temperatures as high as 129 degrees. This is the end of a tiny man treating inmates as if they weren’t human beings. Whatever crimes these men committed, they didn’t deserve this.
You can watch Sheriff Penzone discuss his intentions in the video below.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images
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