Arpaio throws party at Tent City to celebrate 20-year milestone - FOX 35 News Orlando

Arpaio throws party at Tent City to celebrate 20-year milestone

Updated:
PHOENIX -

Tent City is celebrating a big milestone. The controversial jail compound opened 20 years ago Saturday.

Since then, nearly 500,000 inmates have fulfilled their jail sentences at tent city.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he has defied the odds and silenced the critics.

It was August 3, 1993 when Sheriff Joe Arpaio opened Tent City.

The goal was to come up with a way to fix an overcrowding problem.

Building a new facility would be too expensive so the Sheriff thought of a solution: if military tents were good enough for the US armed forces, they'd be good enough for inmates.

"We had about 35 tents at that time so I am very proud of this spot," said Arpaio.

To celebrate the 20-year milestone, Arpaio threw a "retro party" at Tent City and suspended his no frills policies.

He wanted to show what it was like before he took office.

Arpaio lifted his self-imposed bans and handed out candy cigarettes and magazines like "Good Housekeeping" and "Martha Stewart Living."

Inmates were treated to a fine dinner and finished the night with another guilty pleasure at Tent City: a movie.

There's usually no entertainment allowed.

"I never thought about closing Tent City, never entered my mind, and it sure doesn't enter my mind now because I'll tell you as long as I am Sheriff, those tents are gonna be here," said Arpaio.

Over the years, the Sheriff says Tent City has become a model program for being an inexpensive way to house inmates.

It's an accomplishment he doesn't take lightly.

"Not trying to be over dramatic, but how can you forget the spot you stood on all those years ago," said Arpaio.

Tent City jail has been the venue for a concert given by country Legend Glen Campbell.

Sports giants like Charles Barkley, Mike Tyson and Shaquille O'Neal have visited the tents and four US Presidential candidates have taken a tour.

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