Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City (Part 1 by Guest Blogger Daniel Horne)

Daniel Horne spent almost a year in Tent City. He is a business executive, husband, and father of two. Following a car accident, Daniel was not charged with drunk driving, but with aggravated assault – in Arizona’s legal system a car can be classified as a weapon you assault someone with. He is the author of the book, Accidental Felons and blog.

The van pulled into the entrance to Tent City; the entire compound was ringed with razor wire and video cameras. We exited the cramped confines of the van and were led to a holding cell not much larger than a department store dressing room. I thought that worse was impossible after the Matrix, but I was wrong. The small, cramped holding cell was already filled with prisoners when we arrived. The guards crowbarred us inside with the door pressing firmly against the bodies of the prisoners closest to it when it closed. This set a new standard for inhumane treatment by the Sheriff’s Office. On the single bench, long enough to seat three men comfortably, five men sat shoulder to shoulder. The rest of us stood, butt to penis; seventeen prisoners were crammed into one tiny concrete room. The smell of years of body odor and urine in the cell was overwhelming, and the tiny room was hot.

I began to feel claustrophobic. I couldn’t breathe. I was becoming dizzy, so I asked the men around me to catch me if I passed out. A small food tray door in the main door had been left open by the guard. It was our only source of fresh air, and the inmates began shuffling around so I could be near it. At the door, I knelt to breathe through the small opening and get away from the hot stale air. I knelt there for four hours. During that time I realized what was happening to me, the sudden claustrophobia, the difficulty catching my breath, the overwhelming fear — I was having an anxiety attack, a terror I had overcome more than forty years ago had returned.

BAM! The food tray slot in the door slammed shut in my face. The shadow of a guard passed by the door’s glass insert above my head. My peering out of the cell into the open area where the guards were milling about had upset one of them. I closed my eyes and quietly began to pray. I fought to control the feelings of helplessness and panic overtaking me.

It seemed an eternity by the time the holding cell door opened and we filed out to line up against the wall for handcuffs. The lot of us resembling the typical Happy Hour crowd more than a dangerous pack of felons. Our group was led outside the building onto a concrete pad under a large open tarp where laundry bins were filled with clothing stacked in neat piles. We were ordered to strip naked in the frigid air. I stood shivering in the pre-dawn morning of January wearing only my pink rubber bath slippers. The cold wind cut into my skin like microscopic shards of glass tearing at my flesh. My teeth clattered with the loud, rhythmic sound of deer antlers colliding in the mating season.

Two guards dressed in thick winter coats and black beanie hats stood at the end of the line of laundry bins talking and laughing. From their demeanor it appeared they were laughing at us. The humiliation I felt was that of a naked slave at the market. I walked down the line of clothing donning socks, boxer shorts, and another pair of striped pajamas as quickly as the slow-moving line of shivering men permitted. I was issued one sheet, one towel, and six paper thin blankets. (The normal issue in winter, I later learned, was two blankets, but sickness had forced the Sheriff’s Office to allot prisoners four more this year.) The bins that were supposed to contain sets of cotton thermal underwear were empty by the time I got to them. One other prisoner and I stood there, without the much needed protection, waiting to see what would happen next.

“You two guys will have to come back tomorrow afternoon when more clothing arrives from the laundry to request the additional clothing,” the DO said with a shrug, his gloved hands stuffed into the pockets of his heavy, thick coat and a wool beanie pulled down low over his ears to just above his eyebrows. I would need to make due as best I could to survive the night in a cold, arctic air mass blanketing Phoenix that January of 2007. Just two weeks earlier, the temperature had reached a record-breaking low of 14 degrees. Tonight it was 35 degrees and I stood in the night air holding my bedding dressed for the searing heat of summer. I was in trouble — serious trouble.

Part 2 coming next week.

As this is Daniel’s first post for Jon’s Jail Journal, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Email comments to or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood


Anonymous said...

Good clear writing. After hearing so much about Tent City, I'm eager to see how this tale develops.


Anonymous said...

Well, from what I've read around the internet - you don't hear about this stuff on the local news - I never have liked Arpaio.

There's punishment, and there's rehabilitation - different locales take their pick of either. This is cruelty.

Sure, it can be said that worse things have been done to people. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Nor is this conducive to helping society - if I'd committed a crime (and out there it wouldn't surprise me if possessing marijuana could net you some Tent City time) - and this kind of treatment is what I could expect:

I'd hate Arizona, its law enforcement, its citizens, and before long I probably wouldn't think twice about hurting, robbing, or otherwise violating anyone I came across.

Between the criminal record barring things like jobs, education, et al...and the'd be a simpler proposition to go prey on the society that treated me like an animal for nothing.

So - good. Keep writing about it, all of you. I have ex-cons in my family, and they are screwed. They get out and still have no choice in the matter. You did time, you're a throwaway to society. Least we can do is make their death sentence vaguely comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Sheriff Joe wins the election by a landslide every election. Criminals need to be treated as such. That's all I'm saying right now.

Jon said...

Arpaio's margin of victory has plummetted since his early landslides. He got 55.2 percent of the vote in the 2008 election, his lowest so far.

Daniel Horne said...

Sheriff Arpaio's victories are indeed impressive. Here's how he does it: #1) Feed the press with opportunities. This illegally uses taxpayer dollars to finance his re-election campaign, a huge pool of money contenders do not have access to. #2) Hide the truth from the public. The sheriff rigorously investigates any political official in the media who questions his right to own Maricopa County's opinion. Even state legislators and the Governor has been silenced because of the success of ruining political reputations by trying officials in the media. #3) Spread lies. The Sheriff spreads lies about his jail, about his competition and about those who question his actions. #4) Secrecy. The sheriff is the only person in Arizona whose land holdings are not public record, but are rumored to be in the millions of dollars. Far more than a sheriff's salary. #5) Distraction. The sheriff keeps the public's attention glued to things he can do little about but squawk. This successfully turns attention away from human-rights violations that result in deaths in his jail.

Sheriff Arpaio may continue to win. It is certain that he will continue to attack those who do not kowtow down to him. He will use the media to drive home fear and demand obedience. And, once the sheriff is out of office, a large number of arrests are going to begin throughout Maricopa County.

Anonymous said...

Prsions shouldn't be holiday camps. I say Sheriff Joe is doing one hell of a job!

A Law Abiding Citizen

Anonymous said...

just hope you don't end up inside...

Daniel Horne said...

Re: Prsions shouldn't be holiday camps. I say Sheriff Joe is doing one hell of a job!

This is emotional rhetoric based on a perspective inserted into your mind by someone else. I can state that because you either have no conscience, want to see friends and neighbors die, or you don't know what you're saying. I prefer to believe the latter.

No one is suggesting that you agree, all that is required is have intelligent and earnest conversation. That takes at least reading a book or two and stop listening to soundbites on the television as your source of knowledge. Arpaio and Thomas aren't just "not running a hotel" they are killing Maricopa County's fathers, mothers and children and covering that fact up with distractions like illegal immigration which they can do nothing about. Its a ploy. A way of using taxpayer dollars to campaign for re-election. This is criminal. This is considered evil by most civilized definitions of the word!

I don't believe you are evil. I prefer to believe you are asleep and don't realize you are being lied to. I believe that you don't understand what it is like to see a fellow citizen die, while incompetent jail staff stand around and worry if someone is going to get in trouble on their shift. People die, or are seriously injured by incompetent jail staff, there on almost a daily basis. These human beings are not "things" to be tossed aside like so much garbage. Eighty percent have never preyed on another person or another person's property. They are no danger to you. They deserve a crumb of compassion for God's sake!

I don't believe, if your child were arrested (God forbid) that you would be here saying such hateful things from such an ignorant perspective. Prove me right. Read more, watch TV less, and open your eyes to what is really happening under your nose.
Kind regards.

leigh said...

very interesting! i think i've only heard of problems caused by heat in the Tent City.

i may be harping a little here but perhaps one of the important things for people (who seem to believe that those who have been sentenced to serve time in prison deserve only the worst of conditions) to remember the difference between JAILS and PRISONS.

arpaio is running a jail, not a prison, a large majority of those housed in apaio's jail are waiting to go to trial. i imagine some may be waiting for bond hearings and others may have been arrested for not being able to pay off a traffic ticket on schedule----i'm not entirely familiar with arizona law. this is with few exceptions a place where people who have not gone to trial are housed. these are simply people who have been arrested. if someone is arrested for being drunk in public, speeding at a certain rate, loitering, failure to provide proof of insurance----this is where they'd go.

this kind of abuse is unacceptable for anyone----no matter what. the idea that someone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time could end up in these conditions is frightening. arpaio (and others running facilities like this) ought be held accountable for their actions and these situations cannot be tolerated!

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

Thanks for pointing out the difference between jail and prison, Leigh. I think the public has to be constantly reminded of these distinctions. In the minds of many, the person awaiting trial, sentencing, whatever, is guilty and deserves all they get. And Daniel, for pointing out that if you are not personally touched by either experiencing incarceration directly or with a family member, you can not know how frustrating and downright terrifying it is not to be able to get the help you need. Families are judged right along with inmates, often who have nothing to do with anything. It is easy to have a "blanket" mentality. I did once. I never will again.

Anonymous said...

I bet most of them are found guilty at some point, and deserve everything they get from Arpoaio. Maybe they'll think twice next time before committing a crime. Isn't that the case for you Daniel Horne?

Law Abiding Citizen

Daniel Horne said...

re: I bet most of them are found guilty at some point, and deserve everything they get from Arpoaio. Maybe they'll think twice next time before committing a crime. Isn't that the case for you Daniel Horne?

I've spent my entire lifetime in a world where facts matter. Needless to say, nothing I've done (until recently) has anything to do with politics. Its all been science, engineering, economics. Mundane science stuff where b/s dies a quick death.

Now God, or fate if you prefer, has sent me to the other side of the mountain. A place where facts are few, emotions run high, and fear (masked as self-righteousness) reigns supreme.

Is it true that I intentionally attacked a young woman with a dangerous weapon and seriously injured her? No. That is a lie.

Is it true that I plead guilty to the above crime rather than risk life in prison if I lost in a trial based on DUI evidence (not evidence of intent, not evidence of serious injury, and not evidence of an attack) with 8 jurors (not 12) whom the prosecutor would have hoped were as ignorant of facts as this person. Yes, that is true.

Why? To protect my wife and children (the Accidental Felons the book is named for) from homelessness. To keep them in health insurance. To make my commitment as a husband and father more important than my 33-year career.

Does this book exist to exonerate me of any wrong-doing? No. It exists (as anyone who reads it understands) to warn others of political predators walking among them. People who lie, cheat, and steal, to advance their careers by walking on the bodies of the people who trust them. It shows the stories of dozens of people I met going to prison, incarcerated for long periods of time for victimless life-style behaviors, and dying from mistreatment and neglect. It exists because this is wrong. It is the antithesis of Christianity. It is the core of what we send our children to other countries to fight and die to prevent. And it is right here!

Am I angry? Sure. At these predators? Not really. Predators exist. I am angry that I too was asleep. I too did not see the wrong I was perpetrating on my neighbor. I too did nothing to help the (literally) millions of my countrymen and women who have been wronged in the name of fear, power, and promotion.

I sold a copy of my book to an 82-year-old Arpioite. She was dead over with the type of blind obedience that the person here is giving. Then, she asked me to meet her at a Starbucks to talk about it. There she bought another copy because she gave her existing one to a friend. She has since bought 4 more copies of the book. Her eyes are open. Now she understands who she is hating and she didn't mean it that way. She doesn't hate Arpaio or Andrew Thomas, but she does not support that sort of treatment of anyone living in the United States of America. And that includes the person I am responding too!

Daniel Horne said...

re2: I bet most of them are found guilty at some point, and deserve everything they get from Arpoaio. Maybe they'll think twice next time before committing a crime. Isn't that the case for you Daniel Horne?

There are 10,000 men, women, and children in that jail on a continual basis. 3,000 are sentenced. 2,000 live in the open desert in tents. 7,000 are unsentenced, many uncharged. The sheriff's office reports that the average stay in jail is 45 days.

The sheriff's office took 160,000 people to see a judge in 2008. The sheriff's department has a budget of $288 million dollars and 4,000 employees to accomplish that chore. It is part of the sheriff's office core purpose to exist, but it failed to the degree that it has been charged with contempt of court.

The 10,000 number has been fairly constant for 6 years (the length of time Andrew Thomas as been in office). The math shows its safe to assume we're talking "conservatively" over 500,000 people seeing a judge in the past six years.

Checking the math.
160,000 appearances x 6 yrs = 960,000.
365 days/yr div by 45 days = 8
10,000 x 8 = 80,000 people cycled/year.
80,000 x 6 = 480,000 people cycled in 6 years.

You'll quickly see that I "estimated" the half a million and I also rounded. There is a term in science called "significance" which allows this to be accurate enough an estimate to make a point. The point is below.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the AZ prison population increased by 13,374 state residents between 2000 and 2008.

13,374 has ramped to a scorching 9 people every day, a busload every week. Enough Americans went to prison in Arizona to break the state budget and force it to sell all to the for-profit prison industry 6 weeks ago.

Yet, 13,374 new prisoners out of half a million attempts at sending people to prison says that most of the people in Joe Arpaio's jails are guilty of nothing just like you claim to be. Most are released without any prison or jail time whatsoever. Most are held there that long because Andrew Thomas has log-jammed the courts with human bodies and they can't get a fast hearing of the facts.

I understand that facts have a nasty way of screwing up self-righteous indignation. My reason for taking the time to show you, for bothering at all, is that if you live in Maricopa County you are in danger. Not from the residents, but from the politicians.

ROCCO said...

As someone who has never had more then a speeding ticket I could easily see how a minor incident could result in something much more serious in this system. I am claustrophobic myself, and crowds at concerts, etc. unnerve me. Being locked in a cell crushed up against other inmates with no fresh air would cause me to quickly become anxious. When that anxiety hit, my fight or flight instinct would kick in and I would be pounding on the door to be let out. I could see the situation quickly deteriorating from there.

I consider myself a conservative, but as I had stated earlier on this blog I believe the punishment prisoners receive is to have their freedom taken away from them. That's it. When we take on the incarceration of someone we also take on the responsibility to see they are properly treated and taken care of. In this instance I imagine many of these people have not even been found guilty of anything, yet they are being treated like dogs.

I love Scottsdale, I have a vacation home there. But I don't agree with or understand how people can feel that treating people as though they were in a third world countries prison system is something to be looked at as a good thing.

Keep up the good work Jon!

Anonymous said...

Great writing dan. can't wait to r ead more!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You are sent to jail or prison as punishment, not to be futher punished. In other words, the loss of your freedom is your punishment. These are not my words but rather those of A United States Supreme Court Judge.
As to landslide victories, I imagine Hitler had a few of those himself.
Allan Mac Donald

Brittanicus said...

This Sheriff doesn't pander for campaign contributions from the business communities, globalists or Internationalists? So because he doesn't comply with their demands, as they do, they desire him out of office? He is an ongoing danger and worst nightmare to the corporate agenda for illegal discount workers. Now he has a free hand to arrest and not no longer restrained by 287 G federal law, but can use the powers of state laws detain illegal aliens and the criminal elements amongst them. We need more Joe's tent cities and his inmate cuisine of bologna sandwiches, since being subjected to this type of incarceration will deter the most ardent inmate? Nationwide we need more inflexible officers of the law, who will not prostrate to the open border lunatics? Not the soft clean hands of manipulated cops who don't make waves, as they are contemplating looking towards an easy road to retirement. SEEING THAT OUR OWN ELECTED GOVERNMENT, REFUSES TO ENFORCE THE 1986 LAWS (IRCA), THERE OATHS TO PROTECT US FROM OUR ENEMIES FOREIGN & DOMESTIC. THEN COURAGEOUS POLICE OFFICERS MUST CARRY OUT DUTIES OF WHICH AMERICAN'S VOTED FOR?

However the corrupt lawmakers around the nation, have not been able to undermine E-Verify? AS YET? YES! Legal Immigration matters? We should announce to the world that newcomers are welcome, if they come through the front door? We only need those immigrants with specialized skills, such as computer engineers, scientists, doctors and those with highly recommended credentials as developed nations? America has a sovereign right who we choose to settle here? What we don't need is pregnant women slipping across our border, for instant citizenship of their child or destitute illegal aliens whose cannot exist without taxpayer welfare, chain family migration? We don't need in these country illegal recipients who need free health care, education when we already ignore our own people who live in poverty? We need to enforce the 1986 immigration reform law (IRCA), not cripple it for the sake of parasite businesses that live of the slavery of millions of foreign national workers. Seeing that the business world are screaming for more Guest Workers, they should take on the responsibility of paying for their health care and education, instead of dropping sick illegal labor of at the emergency room. to, leave the hospital bill for taxpayers. Instead of expecting the American people to pay for the enormous burden, they should pay separate expenditures for every illegal foreign national and their families.

We need to execute now, a complete war immigration chest containing mandated E-Verify for every worker--NOT REPRESSED--, or 287 G, local police arrest of foreign workers, the Rep.Duncan Hunter original national fence, instead of chopping it down to single line. We need enforcement of our laws, with harsh penalties for violating them. We need politicians we can trust, instead of those elected such as Sen.Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Feinstein and a whole list, who can be graded as Anti-American worker, anti-sovereignty, pro-illegal immigration and compromising the Rule of Law. Submerge them in your anger and frustration at 202-224-3121 Find out the buried truth at NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH & CAPSWEB, for overpopulation facts.

Anonymous said...

Quit complaining you got your self in that position. I bet your never going to go back to jail in arizona now are you?

And heat.. You are in arizona Hello we are known for the heat. If you don't like the heat live in alaska or at least get arrested there.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA.....the cold AZ wind tearing at your skin? You squat when you pee don't you? Put your man pants on and stop trying to make tent city sound like a Russian Gulag. It's your own damn fault you were there, and the place is not much more than a long camping trip... (without all the fun of getting diddled by your counselor right?)

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