Tent City closes: Workers start dismantling Phoenix jail tent complex

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 24, 2017

Crews have started to dismantle some of the tents in a controversial outdoor jail complex in Phoenix that's in the process of being closed by the metro area's new sheriff.

One of the five jail yards within the "Tent City" has already been completely dismantled, and workers on Wednesday were in the process of tearing down a second yard.

"We can find more productive ways to penalize those who have broken the rules, but also have a focus on bringing them back into the population in a healthy manner," Sheriff Paul Penzone said.

The complex is one of the remnants of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 24-year tenure.

Penzone estimated the move will reduce the amount of overtime hours used, ultimately saving $4.5 million in overtime expenses.

Penzone, who defeated Arpaio last year, announced plans in early April to tear down the complex.

"You're seeing an evolution of detention in general," Penzone said.

The complex was opened in 1993 by Arpaio to ease jail overcrowding. It was criticized for serving as a media promotion tool for Arpaio.

Penzone said he's also considering relocating the MCSO Animal Safe Haven (MASH) Unit. 

"That is a vision, that is not something that has come to fruition yet, but that is one of the considerations. We're also looking into other options," Penzone said.

The agency says it started dismantling the tents last week.