Tent City prison turns 18

Aug. 3, 2011 at 11:55 PM

PHOENIX, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Tent City prison compound set up by Maricopa (Ariz.) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio commemorated its 18th year in operation Wednesday.

The compound is comprised of military-style tents and can house as many as 1,000 inmates at a time, The Arizona Republic reported.

The facility is for minimal to medium security risk inmates who are sentenced to less than one year in prison. Everyone at Tent City is required to work on a chain gang, in one of the jail-support facilities or at a community job through work-release and furlough programs.

Phoenix attorney Mike Manning says it's a surprise the facility has last 18 years.

"It's not delivered any of its promises except for publicity," Manning said.

Hundreds of prisoners rioted in 1996, causing injuries to eight sheriffs employees and about $100,000 in damages.

Three years later, 200 inmates threw rocks at guards, lit tents on fire and tipped portable toilets over.

Arpaio downplays the incidents, noting that "1.3 million people come through the jails and I'm supposed to run the toughest jail in the universe, and [so then] where are all the riots?"

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