An overcrowded jail known as Tent City—created by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to combat overcrowding in jails—will soon shutter, his successor Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a press conference Tuesday.
The announcement was based upon the recommendation of an advisory committee appointed by Penzone when he succeeded the controversial sheriff in January.
“This facility is not a crime deterrent, it is not cost efficient, and it is not tough on criminals,” Penzone said, noting the closure will save the county $4.5 million a year. He also referred to the compound as a “circus” adding, “Starting today, that circus ends, and these tents come down.”
The facility was created by Arpaio as part of his “tough on crime” approach, but as azcentral notes, it “stood largely as a political pawn for its founder,” and was expected to cost around $8.6 million this upcoming year.
The committee, formed by Penzone and headed by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, announced Tuesday that, “After months of study, we are ready to make our recommendations to the Sheriff concerning Tent City.” The committee found that the county suffered from the facility.
Asked for comment about the closing, Arpaio said he was not going to “second-guess” Penzone’s decision, but added, “If I was still the sheriff, those tents would never be gone.”
“George Soros got his wish,” he added. “When he pumped about $5 million against me to get me out of office, he wanted to close Tent City. So I guess he got his wish.”
Later, at a press conference on Tuesday night, Arpaio pushed back against Penonze’s characterization of Tent City as a “circus.”
“It’s not a circus—it’s not a circus. That’s insulting to all circus people,” Arpaio said, according to KStar News. “It’s disgusting, calling that a circus.” He later clarified, “maybe everything I do is a circus, but let’s not insult the circus.”
“I gave the inmates a free concert—is that a circus?” he continued. “[Pamela Anderson] came when the food was changed, that’s not a circus.”
“I’m proud of the fact that I started this,” he added. “Once you get those tents down, you will never get them up again because the city of Phoenix has to issue a permit—Do you think the city will issue a permit when half of the city council hates the tents? They will be gone forever and that’s sad.”