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What's Next For The Tent City Jail Location?

By Jimmy Jenkins, Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 3:21pm
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(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
Workers take down the Tent City Jail.
Al Macias/KJZZ
The canvas tents are held up by permanent concrete and pillars at Tent City.

When Sheriff Paul Penzone took office this year, he identified the Tent City Jail as his No. 1 priority. He formed a committee to look at the positives and negatives of the facility and, ultimately, decided to shut it down.

KJZZ's Jimmy Jenkins was at the jail yesterday as the tents started to come down.

LAUREN GILGER: Jimmy, where is the Sheriff’s Office in the process?

JIMMY JENKINS: So far about half the population of Tent City has been moved to another county jail. The tents were constructed back in 1993 to address overcrowding but currently MCSO has room, so they were able to absorb the inmates from the tents.

LAUREN: So who’s left in the tents?

JIMMY: There are still about 300 inmates on work furlough that stay overnight in tents. The Sheriff’s Office says because these inmates have a different schedule — they come and go at different hours — they still haven’t figured out where to put them.

LAUREN: One of the reasons Penzone cited for taking the tents down was the cost. What did it cost to run Tent City?

JIMMY: Almost $9 million annually, and because of the way its set up, thats the same cost whether its empty or full. Sheriff Penzone says removing this — what he called a really tough facility to staff — it should free up additional manpower. The sheriff says no one lost their job in this position. The detention officers were transferred, just like the inmates, to other jails

LAUREN: Do we have any idea what might happen to the Tent City location?

JIMMY: Penzone won’t commit to anything, but he keeps talking about this project where a private company would build a new climate controlled facility on the site for the MASH unit. These are the abandoned and abused animals the Sheriff’s Office takes in through investigations. So they would build a new building for the animals and develop a program where inmates could work with the animals.

LAUREN: What’s gonna happen to all the stuff from the jail?

JIMMY: The Sheriff’s Office says they will auction off some it, and the proceeds will go the their general fund. Things like fans, sinks, rusty old bunk bed, a 60-foot guard tower. Some real deals to be had there, Lauren.

LAUREN: Oh, that guard tower would go great in my backyard. Thanks, Jimmy

JIMMY: My pleasure, Lauren. Thank you.

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