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March 30, 2015

Tent City: Myth versus Fact

Filed under: Court,Criminal Trial Process — admin @ 10:37 am

shutterstock_170934761If you know anything about the criminal justice system in Arizona, you’ve heard about Tent City. This open-air prison in the sweltering desert heat has made headlines and spurred rumors since it was established in 1993. People love to talk about the famous pink underwear or record high temperatures inmates must endure to serve their sentenced time. Maybe you’ve seen Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chain gangs or wondered what inmates do all day to pass the time. The Blumenreich Law Firm is here to dispel some common myths and provide helpful advice if you face jail time yourself.

Myth: Once you’re there, you cannot leave until your sentence is complete.

Fact: It really depends on your situation. Some individuals qualify for work release furlough. This allows people to remain on house arrest and work from home, only appearing at Tent City for the beginning of their sentences and designated times throughout the week.

Myth: Tent City is like camping.

Fact: Electricity, plumbing, and fans do exist. Tent City is safe, but it’s certainly no picnic. Bunks are sheltered under open-air tents and inmates are subject to whatever weather occurs that day. Temperatures vary from extreme lows at night to extreme highs during the day, frequently reaching triple digits in the summer. If you are incarcerated during monsoon season, plan to get wet – tents can leak and there’s no guarantee you’ll have an umbrella.

Myth: You don’t need to pack for jail.

Fact: You are required to bring a government issued photo ID, as well as your original court orders. Also consider bringing a flashlight, two towels to use as a pillow, and $40 in small bills or change to pay for commissary purchases. Bring a watch if you are participating in the work release furlough program. Possession of a cell phone is forbidden and will result in jail staff sending you home immediately. Don’t plan on passing the time with Angry Birds!

Myth: Tent City houses hardened criminals.

Fact: Most inmates in tent city are there for DUI charges. Individuals convicted of felony charges or violent crimes are not permitted to serve their time in Tent City due to safety concerns. All inmates undergo a background check prior to entry to ensure the safest environment possible.

Myth: Inmates wear pink underwear because the jail staff think it’s funny.

Fact: Pink underwear came about as an anti-theft measure after $48,000 worth of plain white underwear with the prison’s staple “MCSO” stenciled on the back went missing. Pink underwear is much more difficult to hide and has such a unique look that the county has begun selling them commercially as a novelty item to tourists.

Myth: Jail and prison are the same thing.

Fact: Jails generally house individuals who are still awaiting trial or people sentenced to less than one year in custody. Prisons, on the other hand, house convicted offenders who have committed more serious crimes and serve longer sentences.

Myth: You can’t be turned away from jail.

Fact: Many people are sent home before they’ve even entered the holding cell – and they pay for it. You are required to return to the court (for a fee) and schedule a new incarceration date if this happens. The same thing will happen if you are determined to be medically unfit to serve your sentence in Tent City. Inmates may also be turned away for missing their scheduled arrival time, possession of a cell phone, or incorrect clothing. Shorts, tank tops, sandals, and shoes with laces are not permitted (you may wear shoes with the laces removed).

The legend of Tent City is surrounded by hearsay and rumor, but government resources and inmate accounts provide a great deal of information about what to expect from the facility. The courts and your lawyer will make sure you have all the appropriate information before beginning a jail sentence so you can focus on the situation at hand. However, if you were arrested for a DUI or any other criminal offense, you should consult an Arizona criminal defense lawyer before pleading your case. In many cases, there may be alternative sentences or defenses you may be unaware of that will lead to a favorable resolution for your case. In any case, we fight hard for your rights and work to help you avoid time in Tent City or any other jail. If you are in need of a lawyer, please contact us today for a free consultation to see what Josh Blumenreich can do for you.