Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to shut down controversial 'Tent City'

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Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone stated in a press conference Tuesday, April 4, that he will shut down Tent City. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone stated in a press conference Tuesday, April 4, that he will shut down Tent City. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Tent City (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Tent City (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)
(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Newly elected Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Tuesday at a press conference that he has decided to shut down Tent City. 

During his campaign, Penzone said he planned to reevaluate the controversial outside jail facility if elected.

"After a methodical review, I am shutting down Tent City. This facility is not a crime deterrent. It is not cost effective and it is not tough on criminals. By shutting down Tent City, we can save approximately $4.5 million in our budget," Penzone said.

[PHOTOS: A look back at the history of Tent City]

[RELATED: Tent City's future could hinge on the election]

Penzone said there is enough space in other detention centers in the county to house inmates. 

"I have five other detention centers with plenty of space. No inmates are going free and if you commit a crime in Maricopa County, you will be incarcerated and detained in our facilities," Penzone said.

[RELATED: Arizona sheriff to shut down famed Tent City jails complex - Associated Press]

Penzone explained some of the logistics of how inmates who are currently serving in Tent City will be moved to other facilities within Maricopa County.

"Our projections are within the next 45 to 60 days we will move at least half of the tent population inside hardened facilities," Penzone said.

The announcement comes after recommendations from a citizen advisory committee formed by Penzone to look at Tent City and any other issues the sheriff may need to evaluate. The SPEAR Committee is headed up by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

[RELATED: Arpaio denounces plan to close Tent City]

Woods, who also spoke at the news conference, said over the years the population of Tent City has declined dramatically, to about a third of its 2,100 bed capacity.

"Judges, probation offices, prosecutors, are looking to alternative forms of punishment to incarceration more and more," said Woods.

He then pointed out that regardless of the number of inmates, the cost to run Tent City remains the same. It's estimated that cost is $8.7 million annually. 

Woods also made a point to bring attention to the fact that an overwhelming number of Tent City inmates want to keep the facility open.

"What does that tell you? That tells you that this negative image that we have gotten since 1993, that we are so tough on prisoners in Maricopa County, that this is how we treat them, that that was false," said Woods. 

Regarding work furlough and work release, Penzone said it may take several months for this issue to be addressed.

"Not because of a difficulty in finding space within the hardened structures, but because of the dynamics of work furlough," Penzone said. 

[RAW VIDEO: Sheriff's Penzone's press conference April 4, 2017]

Tent City was created in 1993 out of old army tents because of a lack of space for inmates at the time. The facility was supposed to be temporary, but the former Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, kept the outside jail running as it became part of his legacy.

[READ MORE: Tent City celebrates 23rd anniversary with neon 'vacancy' sign

Arpaio has even given tours to international media crews, visiting law enforcement officers, and others causing the facility to be known nationally and internationally. 

Penzone implied in his press conference that the facility was a circus. 

"Starting today, the circus ends and these tents come down," Penzone said.

[PDF | Maricopa County Sheriff's Press Release: Sheriff Paul Penzone orders tent city closed]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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