Arpaio denounces plan to close Tent City

Posted: Updated:
(Source: LKTVK/KPHO) (Source: LKTVK/KPHO)

Longtime Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio denounced the plan to close the jail known as Tent City.

Arpaio promised voters to use surplus military tents as an outdoor detention center when he first ran for office in 1992.

The tents, which have housed more than half a million people in the last 24 years, will soon be dismantled.

"Of course it's the wrong decision," Arpaio said Tuesday, from his office in Fountain Hills.

"But if he wants to close it, let the people decide in this county whether he's making the right decision," Arpaio said of the new sheriff.

Sheriff Paul Penzone says Tent City is not cost-effective, only about half full, and does not serve as a deterrent.

[RELATED: Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to shut down controversial 'Tent City']

Penzone says Maricopa County could save $4.5 million per year by moving the inmates to other jails.

"It is a deterrence. [The inmates] hate that place. I don't care what [Penzone] says.  They hate that place," Arpaio said.

Tent City became known for its terrible food, scorching summer days, and frigid winter nights.

Still, the inmates had access to an indoor area, plus the yard to walk around in.  Penzone says his staff found, most inmates chose to stay in the tents, rather than a small jail cell.  They concluded Tent City was never as "tough" as Arpaio claimed.

The tents made Arpaio famous.  He was featured on "60 Minutes" and other national and international broadcasts, walking around the facility.

He welcomed law enforcement officers, politicians, and celebrities to tour the tents.

Arpaio allowed country singer Glen Campbell to give a concert while he was serving time.

"Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson came to sample the new vegetarian food option.

"Starting today, that circus ends," Penzone said.

"It's disgusting and insulting to call it a circus," Arpaio responded.

The former sheriff says jail overcrowding will become an issue.

"President Trump has cracked down on illegal immigrants... so you're going to see more people booked into jails," he said.

Penzone says the other county jails have plenty of room to absorb the 700 to 800 inmates currently staying in the tents.

The process of transferring them will take a few months.

"You think I'm worried about legacy?  Come on," Arpaio said, "When they bury me, are they going to say I was known for Tent City? I've done a lot of other things, believe me."

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

Jared DillinghamJared anchors the News at 8 on 3TV, and reports for both 3TV and CBS5.

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Jared Dillingham

Over his decade in Phoenix, Jared has reported for all shifts, and anchored both mornings and weekends.

Since moving to Arizona in 2008, Jared has covered everything from Senator John McCain's campaign for president, to the Jodi Arias trial, to the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Jared grew up in New York, and graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in broadcast journalism and political science.

After internships at News12 Long Island and NBC in Washington, DC, Jared moved to beautiful "Big Sky Country." He spent a year at KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, before moving to KREM in Spokane, Washington.

The Valley has truly become "home" for Jared. He lives in Phoenix, and spends his mornings listening to as many news/political podcasts as possible, while walking his (now elderly) rescue dogs, Gabby and Bree.

On his days off, Jared can be found hiking Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain.

He also travels as much as possible and runs a blog with advice on visiting cities around the world.

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