Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tent City jail hot and pink

Tent City
An Inmate lays in his bed at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Tent City in Phoenix on Saturday, July 30, 2011. (RICK SCUTERI/QMI AGENCY)
PHOENIX, ARIZ. — In the middle of summer, it doesn’t take long for the open Arizona desert to start melting makeup and signal grown men to cry for more water.

But for the 486 unlucky crooks and bad guys doomed to serve sentences in Tent City, it’s the cruellest part of punishment.

“You can’t do anything,” groaned Pastor Trevino, serving a nine-day sentence for driving while suspended.

“It’s uncomfortable. You can’t sleep, you toss and turn. And they expect you to work a full shift, but you can’t. You’re tired.”

Erected 18 years ago, Tent City was the brainchild of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, often referred to as the meanest sheriff in North America.

It’s an outdoor jail that destines prisoners to live out their sentences under the blazing Arizona sun.

The tents provide some shelter, though inmates say there’s no true escape from the heat. Saturday’s temperature reached 110 degrees.

The mean sheriff also likes to embarrass his inmates by making them wear pink socks, underwear, and bracelets.

Those caught committing soft crimes — usually sentences that carry punishments of less than a year — are sent there for retribution.

The tents are shared by dozens of inmates, who sleep and lounge on bunk beds with thin and flimsy mattresses.

Some paunchy prisoners complain that the top bunks are tough to climb onto, and draw more heat due to their proximity to the roof.

“It’s uncomfortable to a point, but it’s better than sleeping on the floor,” said Trevino.
“You can’t really complain because you’re in jail.”

Food is another sore spot for prisoners.

They’re fed two meals each day, with breakfast consisting of milk, bread, lunch meat, peanut butter and oranges.

Dinner includes potatoes and usually eight-ounces of meat.

Inmate Stephen Lanfor, 21, said the food is so vile that it’s caused him to lose 15 pounds.

“I remember we got carrots on a Wednesday and the carrots were put into the slop we ate for five days after that until the carrots turned green,” said Lanfor, who’s serving out the last leg of his drug trafficking sentence in Tent City.

“That was the last day they put them in the slop.”

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