Tent City celebrates 23rd anniversary with neon 'vacancy' sign

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(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Circa 1993 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Circa 1993 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City is celebrating its 23rd anniversary.

A neon "vacancy" sign hangs above the jail. 

During an earlier ceremony marking Tent City being in business for 23 years, the sheriff met with Valley dignitaries and members of the media, and even signed inmate autographs.

Tent City was founded in 1993 when Arpaio was able to obtain some surplus military tents. These tents were set up in an area adjacent to one of the existing Maricopa County jails. Arpaio had previously decided that he would not release any inmates due to jail overcrowding, and housing sentenced inmates in the tents seemed a good solution. Funding for the project was minimal, and included the cost for cement necessary for base pads, secure fencing, and electric costs for heating, cooling and lights.

Tent City, also known as the "Tents Jail," can currently hold up to 2,126 inmates.

Arpaio has added a few improvements at Tent City over the years, including four Sky Watch Towers for security, stun fences around the perimeter, and facial recognition computer software for inmate identification.

K-9 units and patrol deputies have been added for additional security.

The Classification Unit conducts background checks on inmates before they are housed in the tents, so that dangerous or predatory individuals are not placed there.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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