PHOENIX - It was karaoke at Tent City with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s singing bringing cheers and the occasional pink panty thrown his way.
Of course all in good fun as Arpaio celebrated 18 years of his controversial compound widely known as Tent City.
“This is one sheriff who will never turn anybody away, always have room,” Arpaio said.
That extra room started in 1993 when Arpaio announced he was moving “low-risk” male inmates outside the jail walls and under tents. Three years later he started up a Tent City for women.
Arpaio said in 1996, “I’m an equal opportunity incarcerate. I believe that women should be treated the same as men.”
Over the years Arpaio’s “military style” jail has been criticized as being inhumane, especially when the inmates have to live outside during the hot and sweltering summer months.
“The tents, the pink underwear, the striped uniforms, this is all a way of getting attention and staying in office,” said Carlos Galindo who was near Tent City protesting.
Also protesting was Tom Lizarragan. He said, “Tent City as a whole was a good idea, but maybe it’s lost its luster or something.”
Some of the inmates say they prefer sleeping under the stars. “I would personally rather be in the tents than inside. We have more freedom out here. We all go to work, everybody goes to work,” commented Tent City inmate Joeleen Lundsford.
“Out here, you do, you get to walk around,” said Tent City inmate Michelle Padilla. “You’re outside in the fresh air and so it’s a lot better out here.”
It might be better outside but both inmates told me they never want to come back.