Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City (Part 4 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

“Nothing, but it’s all part of their game, man. Almost everyone I’ve met in this place is here for using drugs, DUI, or a probation violation. So, what’s your story?”
“I’m here for Aggravated Assault.”
“You? Man, there must be something I don’t see. Who’d you shoot?”
“Nobody. I was in an automobile accident.”
“Was somebody maimed?”
“No, but the county attorney got pretty crafty with my case, too. I ended up taking a plea. I call it ‘Trial by Prosecutor’. The County Attorney charged me with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. There was no way I could get a fair trial. It’s interesting how he does that. He holds a gun to your head and says ‘Sign here’. Then he hangs your reputation on his wall like it’s a trophy to prove how many bad people live here.”
“Trial by prosecutor... I like that,” William said. “That’s pretty much what it’s become these days with mandatory sentencing, hasn’t it? I’m sorry dude. How long are you going to be here?”
“A year, but I’m supposed to get Work Furlough. I’m worried about that. I don’t seem to be going to Work Furlough, unless this is a stop along the way, and I’ve been away from work for a week.”
“A year! Christ, dude, get yourself another attorney. You don’t want to be in this place a whole year. Why didn’t you go to prison? It’s safer in prison.”
“My family, man. I’d go through hell for them.”
“Well, that’s pretty much what you’ve chosen to do. This is as close to hell as it gets in America. I admire your courage.”
“No courage to it, William. I didn’t do it for me. If I’d gone away for ten years, it could have destroyed my marriage, and who knows what would have become of my children.”
“Man, that woman you ran into must have wanted your balls hung on a stick,” William said.
“No, actually she was quite gracious,” I replied. “She didn’t show up at sentencing, and she told the prosecutor that she didn’t want me to go to jail. They didn’t charge her with anything, so my guess is that she wanted to stay as far away from these people as possible. I can’t blame her, and I’m glad they didn’t go after her. She might have gone to prison if they had, and that would have been as wrong as this.”
“I know. This county has gone to hell.”
“It’s not just Andrew Thomas. This sort of abuse is growing all across America. People like Andrew Thomas are rising to power like weeds. It’s the damned mandatory sentencing that’s the problem. It provides a shield for political predators like him to hide behind. Almost everyone is afraid to go to trial. I know; I studied this shit for eighteen months while I was trying to figure out what happened to me. You and I are part of a bigger plan, my friend.”
“Speaking of plans, I have to go pick up the Lizard’s mail — Later.” William exited the tent to get the mail for the day.
‘Lizard’, I learned, is the male inmates’ affectionate term for women inmates. They call the women ‘Lizards’. Don’t ask me why. I can only guess what the women call the men — ‘Dumb Asses’ probably. The mail system in Tent City is clever. The mail is delivered each afternoon when the DO’s are changing shifts by tossing a sock filled with letters over the fenced barrier separating the men from the women. It starts off as a pen pal thing but often turns into a love affair between two lonely, desperate people who’ve never met, both of whom are saturated with feelings of helplessness.

William returned a few minutes later with a pink sock laden with tightly folded sheets of paper and some rocks for weight. Our tent was the mail tent, so there were plenty of visitors coming from across the yard to see if they had mail. Some of the men didn’t yet have a Lizard. They were hoping for a letter from a woman looking to hook-up or a reply to their inquiry tossed across the razor wire a few days earlier. It was an exciting time of day when William picked up the mail.

“Horne, get your gear and report to the bubble,” a guard’s voice boomed over the loud speaker.
“Dan, that’s you,” William said. “I guess you’re going to Work Furlough after all. Leave your blankets and sheets, okay?”
I gathered my few belongings to carry to the office. There wasn’t much. “William, I don’t know how to thank you enough. You guys saved my life. I owe you, but I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”
“Don’t worry about it, man,” William said. “You’ll help other people too when you get oriented to this shit hole. We help each other, dude. It’s for sure no one else gives a rat’s ass if we live or die in here. You’ll get your chance to pay it forward. Now go, or the bus will leave without you.”


Click here for Part 3.

Click here for more information on Daniel’s book, Accidental Felons.

Click here for more on Tent City by Pearl Wilson whose son was murdered there.

Jail Survival tips.

Survival Tips Video. BBC Video.

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Shaun P. Attwood

2 comments:

leigh said...

maybe there is one and i'm not aware of it, but; i'd love to see an in depth study of people who take pleas. when i worked for a judge i saw people who wanted a jury trial being brought into the judge's chambers to be pressured into taking a plea. my best friend was pressured into a plea by a judge as well. the judge assured him he'd go to death row if he didn't sign on the line. then there are immigrants who take a plea for something rather innocuous for someone who was born in the us----like shop lifting or loitering or driving without license or insurance. only the immigrants then can face deportation. sometimes they are explained this and sometimes not. more often than not people sign a plea without having the time to review and ask questions regarding the form and the things no one went over in court.

too frequently people take a plea because of the pressure and also because it is painted as the best case scenario and the judges, the prosecution, and even some of the over worked, under paid (and some times uncaring) public defenders put the pressure on as well. i sincerely believe that judges and prosecutors must be checked, held accountable and punished for their role in the corruptions of the judicial system.

i heard a report on the radio this week about closing the Hutto facility in texas where immigrant families were being held pending an assortment of decisions and procedures related to their deportation, granting of asylum, etc. people were, as they ought have been, up in arms when they discovered the treatment of families being held there. and they demanded an end to it.

and similarly people saw the photos of the soldiers in iraq committing abuse after abuse and photographing it. people were beaten, humiliated, housed in horrible conditions and the world was in an uproar. as well they should have.

people are upset over arpaio's antics and he's been made the focus of human rights activists and should remain so until he and his policies have been tossed out like the trash they are. these conditions that arpaio employs are not altogether unique and certainly are not rare in the world of corrections.

i hope that accounts like Horne's will be able to force open the eyes of those who feel that anyone incarcerated deserves to live in a hellish place because they've, "done the crime and must do the time," must, "pay for what they've done," or need to be punished because they are, "worthless human beings."

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