Tent City - Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Shameful Creation

Guest blog by Pearl Wilson, co-founder, Mothers Against Arpaio (MAA)

Letter to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors

I would like to bring to your attention a problem in Maricopa County; one that I believe you are already familiar with. The problem is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his greatest source of nationwide publicity, the infamous Tent City.

The conditions in Tent City are extremely dangerous, for several reasons. The lack of inmate supervision, due to the drastically low ratio of guards per inmates, the lack of management controls to secure the safety/health of inmates and guards, overcrowding issues, inmate violence, access to drugs and contraband, and the lawsuits that are filed against Maricopa County as a result of these conditions, screams for more attention from you, the Board of Supervisors.

I do not present this problem to you merely as a concerned county resident, but as a woman who has been directly affected by this terrible problem. My name is Pearl Wilson and my loving son, Phillip Wilson, was murdered in Tent City in 2003. While serving a short sentence for a simple probation violation, my son was horribly beaten by unsupervised inmates, resulting in a coma, and later his untimely death.

But his is not the only case; nowhere close. As I write this letter, there are over 1,500 cases pending in which Sheriff Joe Arpaio is listed as a defendant. These cases are costing the county millions of dollars, and will continue to do so until something is done to correct the problem. With two new jails having been recently opened, at a cost of $500 million to the taxpayers, there should be absolutely no reason to keep Tent City open. It seems quite clear the only reason Tent City is still open is for Sheriff Arpaio’s own self-promotion.
An ASU study – commissioned by Arpaio himself – concluded that Tent City does not deter crime in Maricopa County. Yet, Arpaio continues to punish detainees and inmates under the horrific conditions of Tent City.

I am very interested to know the Board of Supervisors’ rationale of this issue.

Why is the county not making full use of the two new jails, and who do we keep Tent City open when it is such an obvious liability to the county? Understaffing in the county jails has been an issue almost the entire time Joe Arpaio has been in office, and is no longer an acceptable excuse. Recent publicity suggests that his own employees are uncomfortable working for him and fear retaliation if they choose not to openly support him. Is the sheriff himself to blame for the understaffing issue, or does the problem go deeper? I know in my heart that no amount of money will ever bring my son back. The only thing that will truly bring comfort to myself and my family is knowing that while the senseless death of my son could have been prevented and wasn’t, we can prevent more wrongful deaths, of inmates and guards, by tearing down the tents.

I humbly ask you to please consider my request for Tent City to be torn down.
It is not worth the publicity to lose lives, even the lives of those people who have committed crimes. Since the tents were designed to handle overcrowding and that is no longer an issue, due to the construction of the new jails, it makes sense to move the inmates to indoor facilities where they can be better monitored. It would increase the safety for everyone involved, including the detention officers.
I anxiously await a reply from the board, and hope that you will thoughtfully consider my request.

Jon would like to have your comments on Pearl's article and your opinions of Tent City

Jon spent two years in Arpaio’s jails click here to get the truth.

13 August 05


At 7am my cell door clicked open.
“Jon, come out!” said Officer Redrock, who was accompanied by a doctor.
“I’m takin’ a shit. Can you wait a minute?” Long Island pled his case.
I stayed put because the toilet is adjacent to the cell door.
“Tough shit! Jon, come out, now!”
Disobeying an order is a ticketable offense, so I opened the door.
What's this?” I said, and squinted at the syringe the doctor was fondling.
“TB test,” the doctor said.
“I read that these shots mess up the immune system. I feel perfectly healthy. Can I sign a refusal for medical treatment?”
“Absolutely not. If you don’t take it voluntarily, I’ll call out the turtles [the goon squad], and they’ll strap you down and force you to take it,” the doctor said while eyeballing the veins in my left arm.
“That’s just great. I’m sick of these - ouch!”
“What a way to start the day, eh?” Officer Redrock said.
“Yeah. Thanks.” I said and shut the door.

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Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood
11 August 05

Futures Trading Update

In a previous blog, I wrote about Long Island’s and my futures trading results. (We are trading on paper, not with money.) The good performance has continued. As of the 8th July closing prices, Long Islands equity is $5549.36 and mine is $4695.75. Our accounts have both more than doubled initial investment stakes of $2000 in less than two months. My soybean position shot upwards, and Long Island scored big gains in gold and corn. We’ve been letting our profits run, and stopping our losses quickly.

I’m wondering if we’ll still be significantly ahead of the futures trading pros by year's end?


Jon wrote in a letter:

It looks like back home outside. Rain clouds, pitter patter. Puddles everywhere. We arrived here at the hottest week on record, but now the brutal humidity is gone and it’s much better than Buckeye, 10 degrees and less in temperature. Our window is open and there’s a sweetness to the air.

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Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood
09 August 05

Arpaio’s Sci-Fi Slammer

Maniac Mack is now housed in Arpaio's new jailhouse. Mack wrote:

I have graduated to a level of classification reserved only for the most violent, dangerous, and seasoned inmates.
Here, no chances are taken. Indeed, for any and all human contact we must be shackled in leg irons, and belly belts with handcuffs attached. To come out of a cell, two officers must be present. All officers must wear stab vests at all times. Shankings – with homemade knives and sharp stabbing objects – are common practice. Stab vests cover all vitals not located on the face, and below the belt. The neck is covered by flaps attached to the vest.

‘Respect’ is the name of the game. A wrong word spoken in jest or seriousness can result in a shanking. This applies double to detention officers. If an officer disrepects an inmate, he is an instant target for up and coming youngsters to earn respect, and make a ‘name’ by turning that officer into a human pin cushion.

We are routinely strip searched. Any time we go to court, a special chair known as ‘The Boss’ awaits our return. Stripped to boxers, inmates sit on ‘The Boss’, and this miracle of modern technology lets the officers know if any metal is hidden in your rectum.

Visits are through video visitation. Games with our snail mail are common. You’d have to see it to believe it, and I don’t wish this on anybody.

Our cells are 6ft x 20ft. One man cells. Narrow little boxes of despair. Freezing cold they are. Punishment for blocking up the air conditioning ducts is to be stripped out for 72 hours. Mattress, everything, gone! Just you and your chattering teeth, hard nipples, and goose bumps.

'Restrictions got nothing on being stripped out,' says Vanilla Gorilla – spokesman for the whites. 'Fucking blizzard-like conditions, I didn’t sleep for almost three fucking days!'

Sheriff Joe has done everything to make this place a no-joke area, and still we laugh and joke around. It’s a subtle 'fuck you!' to the Man, saying you can’t break us. Starve me, freeze me, put me in solitary, I’m still laughing. The 'fuck you!' is for you Joe Arpaio, you still haven’t made a facilty that can break the indomitable human spirit.
Maniac Mack

Many thanks to Maniac Mack for what possibly may be the first insider account of Arpaio’s new jail to find its way onto the Internet.

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07 August 05

Apples And Oranges

Some inmates, aware that Long Island’s release date – 10 December 05 - is fast approaching, have asked if I am shopping for a new cellmate. I was surprised when Ogre put himself in the running. Fortunately, I was with Two Tonys when I was approached by Ogre.

“I think we should be cellies when Long Island leaves,” Ogre said.
“You’re kiddin’ right?” I said.
“No. I’m serious. All you do is read and write all day. You don’t smoke. You don’t do dope. You don’t get involved in any drama. You’d be a good celly.”
“You’re too volatile. I need peace and quiet. You snap when you don’t take your meds. I heard about you recently choking Tom and almost throwing him off the upper tier.”
“Are you sayin’ you don’t wanna be my celly?”
“Listen, Ogre," Two Tonys said," this ain’t fuckin happenin’. Datin’ agencies make fortunes matchin’ motherfuckers. I’m lookin’ at his profile 'n’ I’m lookin’ at your profile - no fuckin’ match!”
“Whaddya mean?” Ogre said.
“You’re too fuckin’ crude for him. He’ll be writin’ an’ tryin’ to do his fuckin’ yoga, and you’ll be fartin’ and gigglin’ all fuckin’ day long. You’re gonna hafta fuhgeddaboutit.”
“Whatever,” Ogre said.
“It ain’t gonna work, Ogre. In the mornin’s this guy runs a fuckin’ office in his cell. How’s he gonna do that with you takin’ a shit every forty minutes?”
“I gotta shit when I gotta shit.”
“An’ the last celly you had, all he did was read his fuckin’ dictionary. He made Daniel Webster look like a fuckin’ chump. An’ you almost choked that motherfucker too!” Two Tonys said.
“So who do you think would make a good celly for Ogre?” I said.
“He can live with killers, robbers, psychos – any violent motherfuckers. No chomos or rapos. But really he needs to be by his fuckin’ self.”
Ogre went silent.

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Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood
05 August 05

Average Day

Martine, from The Netherlands, recently asked what I do and what I study all day.

Every day is similar. I try to write for five hours in the AM. In the PM I try to read at least one hundred to one hundred and fifty book pages.

My in-cell breaks consist of yoga, meditation, and naps.

Most of the out of the cell time is spent between chow, showers, and chess. On an alternating basis, I get either two or four hours of rec each day. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, I am assigned to the education building for independent study, where I practice Spanish or Chinese using books and cassette tapes that I have purchased. I am also enrolled in several ADOC programs.

My favourite study areas are: behaviourial finance, the classics, creative writing, economic history, forensic accountancy, literary criticism, Mandarin, military science, penology, psychology, political philosophy, Spanish, and the subject that I’ve studied the most: the stock market.

I am grateful to all of you whose book contributions have kept me busy.

Cheers! Jon.

Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood

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03 August 05


Why can’t I sleep? Did someone sprinkle speed into this evening’s chow? Maybe the whirring of the fan is keeping me awake? Should I shove more wet tissue into my already blocked up earholes? Maybe I should change sleeping position? But I’ve changed position over and over for the past two hours – to no avail. Actually, my left arm does feel a little dead. Go on, move around one more time. Maybe it’ll work.

Why is my mind racing with trivialities? Who cares that you got bland navy beans for dinner when it was supposed to have been one of your favourite trays: veggie chillie. Who cares if you can’t make phone calls. T–Netix doesn’t give a damn. Who cares that your Investors Business Daily arrives a day late. You’re in T-town now, you’re on Tucson time.

Calm your mind. Stop thinking about silly things. Didn’t you just read Nietzsche’s words this evening, “The worst things…are the petty thoughts”? Endure gracefully like Nietzsche’s Ubermansch (Superman) would.

Why does the air feel as if it’s eating my skin? Why can I feel pimples erupting on my head and face? Why are my back hairs tickling me? I already tossed my cover sheet, which was cling wrapping sweat to my body. I’m so sick of scratching my clammy skin.

“It’s humid tonight,” mumbled Long Island who was also playing semi-naked Twister on his mattress.

Humidity! That’s it! Humidity has come to itch and scratch and nibble my skin, to make me rotate like a kebab, to bully me to make me stronger.

Now that I know my invisible enemy’s name, I can move on. Silence petty thoughts! Ponder only this mantra:

Om Nama Shivaya
Om Nama Shivaya
Om Nama Shivaya

Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood

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1 August 05

Phone Farce

T-Netix is at it again. Numerous inmates have been without phone service since the move to Tucson. The official excuse is that T-Netix only has one service repair worker covering several state prisons.

Our phone calls start at $2+, yet T-Netix is too skimpy to hire enough people to provide us consistent service. It seems that the contract to shaft inmates enables T-Netix’s management to provide a lousy service.

Being incommunicado was stressful when London was bombed, as my sister is a London resident. Fortunately she was OK.

Emails Jon at writeinside@hotmail.com or post a comment below:

Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood

28 July 05

Bridge blogs give voice to the marginalised

Irish Times Online article by Quinn Norton

Blogging - posting personal commentary to a web page - is different around the world. For some, it's in a non-native language or several languages. Others blog when they get to cybercafes, or when the electricity is on, in places where such things aren't a given. Some use anonymous services to keep safe or avoid prosecution. Shaun Attwood has a particular difficulty blogging. Although he's in the middle of the United States, he writes paper letters to be posted on a blog he's never seen. These are bridge blogs - blogs that give different cultures a new medium of communication.

This concept of a blog that connects two worlds largely started with Salam Pax's "Where is Raed?". In 2003, this Baghdad blog offered something new in a war zone - a day-to-day account of civilian life and opinion. Readers were riveted and, in the politically charged climate leading up to the Iraqi war, many people came to trust Pax's blog exclusively. Since then, blogs from the edge of human life have blossomed. The number and range of these blogs is daunting even for the most enthusiastic internationalist. Ethan Zuckerman, founder of Geekcorps (an IT-focused volunteer aid organisation) and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, was as enthusiastic as they come. He followed many of these blogs, but with a lack of media attention and growing body of publications, he felt that a central clearing house was needed. Together with fellow academic and former journalist Rebecca MacKinnon, Zuckerman founded Global Voices (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/) to address the problem.Global Voices is an online hub for international bloggers. It provides an aggregator, collecting together blogs from other sites, as well as a blog of its own, featuring roundups of reactions to international news and issues and profiles of the bloggers. The aggregator covers English-language blogs from most of the nations of the world, representing a huge cross section of cultural regions. Now, if you really want to know what the locals think, you know where to look.

At the conference that spawned Global Voices, blogger Hossein Derakhshan defined three metaphors for global blogs: "windows", which give you a glimpse of life in another culture; "cafes", which allow members of a culture to interact although geographically disparate; and "bridges", which allow online interaction between cultures where little or none existed before. It is this last type, bridge blogs, on which Global Voices focuses. Many bridge blogs start with a cause.

The most unusual and somewhat shocking bridge blog is http://jonsjailjournal.blogspot.com/. It's the blog of Attwood, a British stockbroker convicted of drug and money-laundering charges associated with raves in Phoenix, Arizona. Attwood has been imprisoned for three years, two of which have been spent in one of the most notorious prisons in a country already notorious for a huge and inhumane prison system. Attwood began writing letters to his parents from jail, describing in plain terms the conditions under Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's regime. Shocked and concerned for their son's life, Derick and Barbara Attwood took a cue from Pax, the famous blogger in Iraq, and started posting the letters to a blog. At first they kept the blog anonymous, fearing retribution."We wanted people to know what was going on inside. Several people have died in restraints and we wanted to get the conditions exposed," says Derick. Jon's Jail Journal did attract press attention: it was used as a resource for a campaign against Arpaio. Although Arpaio was re-elected, Attwood was relocated and eventually the jail was closed."We don't know if Shaun's blog had anything to do with that," says his father, "but it would be nice to think it did." The blog has connected Attwood with family and the world in general. "Having your son arrested and put in prison, it's been terrible - but it's strengthened us as a family. Shaun gets through it with his writing." Feedback has been almost universally supportive and readers regularly send Attwood books and publications. Recently, he thanked "Barry in Tonopah for the subscription to the Investors Business Daily, the arrival of which is now the high point of our day". Attwood writes about other inmates with their permission, and many of them are thrilled to be seen by the outside world, receiving correspondence from Attwood's readership. Of the evolving nature of the blog, his father says: "It's his lifeline really. He gets printouts back. The other inmates get copies as well and they're quite pleased. It's a link, not just for him to the outside world, but for his inmate friends as well; a lifeline to the outside world."

Perhaps more than anything, that lifeline describes the motivation of the bridge bloggers. "I think what it really has to do with is being listened to," says Zuckerman. He notes that, for many African bloggers, it's a way of correcting media perceptions as well. A lot of bloggers in Africa and the Middle East don't like the way they are presented in the media. "These people are saying 'please don't presume to speak for me'." Prior to the web, there wasn't an obvious way for these figures to speak for themselves: war victims, citizens of developing countries, prisoners in desert town jails. And when they did, their words were re-interpreted by the media who covered them. But as Attwood's lifeline, and countless other voices - from an African feminist's Black Looks blog, to the daily life of an aid worker in Somaliland show - there's more to say in these edge worlds than the news is willing or able to pass along. "We have a fascinating backdoor open with blogs... it really is diverse and complicated," according to Zuckerman. And sometimes, perhaps, it can be a little too much. It's not always easy to be the blogging proxy of your son in jail. "Sometimes it's more than a parent wants to know," Attwood's father says, "but we'd rather he was like that. We want him to tell us everything."

Quinn, thank you for the article about global bridge blogs, which included a focus on my journal.
You are right about the blog being a lifeline. The emotional fulfilment I obtain, from bringing computer users into the world of prison and from reading their feedback is beyond description.

It is my hope that increased public awareness of injustice to prisoners will lead to changes. It is thanks to reporters such as yourself that this important message is spreading.
Appreciatively yours,


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25 July 05

Chess With Frankie

During rec (which alternates between two hours one day and four hours the next) I have been playing chess with Frankie. For the first three days the scores were 2-1 to him, 3 –1 to me, and 4 – 3 to him. Then he thrashed me consistently for almost two weeks. More recently, I’ve begun to beat him.

Early in the game, Frankie likes to move his kingside bishop in order to menace my left flank. I’ve managed to block this tactic by running my queenside pawns up against his bishop, thus preventing his bishop from attacking my king-side, whilst hemming in his left flank.

Dealing with Frankie’s body language is difficult. Mostly, he maintains a penetrating squint, as if he were in a duel. Occasionally, he puts on a homoerotic look, and says things like:
“Englandman, you wanna jump in the shower with me later on. There’s plenty of room for two. I’ll scrub your back, and its okay if you drop the soap. I’ll take good care of you, Englandman.”

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Copyright © 2004-2005 Shaun P. Attwood