In Tents: Spending My Summer in Arizona's Tent City Jail
A Trip Report of my stay at Arizona's "Tent City" Jail. The pages go over the jail house politics, race, fights, gangs, the Detention Officer's and my general thoughts on the jail. I was a skinny, white 130 pound college student, getting busted for DUI in Arizona when I was sentenced to 55 days in the Tents.
It was no cake walk. More
Three Chicanos rushed him from behind, each donning a pink sock that held a padlock. The inmates who saw the oncoming Chicanos at the table he was playing cards with quickly got out of the way. Those seated on the same side as Fat Joe didn't know what was going on until they heard the sound of the pad locks smashing against his skull and back. The clunks against his head sounded like they were hitting a concrete wall.
He was hit in the head and back of the neck at least five times before falling backwards. A blow caught him in the face as blood came spurting out of his nose before he even hit the ground. Thirty long seconds had gone by before the Detention Officer's shrieking whistle had the three Chicanos scattering away. Fat Joe lie on his side in a large pool of blood, moaning and slightly convulsing. The abandoned pad locks and pink socks lie next to him, as if to send a message.
The three torpedoes (Chicano muscle) held nothing back on Fat Joe-- a fellow Chicano. He had run up a gambling debt that he couldn't pay and he was soon to be released. Getting “smashed” was a price he could pay.
A D.O screamed “Lockdown! Everyone back to your tents!” over the intercom followed by a wailing siren. When I got outside, the yard was thriving with energy. We hadn't had much this excitement since the dust storm came over the yard a few nights earlier.
I was about 2 weeks in at this point and had never seen so much blood. It was certainly more exciting than the dust storm.
In Tents brings a firsthand narrative of serving time at the famed Tent City Jail in Maricopa County during the Arizona summer.
These pages explore jailhouse psychology, the strict racial code that will put you in the hospital if ignored, fights and organized beatings (there's a difference), the contraband trade, Detention Officers, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his two-ton ego and much more.
In Tent City, there's two different sets of rules to adhere to: one enforced by the Detention Officers, the other enforced by fellow inmates. Within minutes of setting foot into the Tents you get “claimed” by your race who will act as a sort of governing force: punishing those who step out of line with violence.
Join me in a first person look at what it's like living in a world where violence rules and respect is everything: respect of fellow inmates, of yourself, and most importantly, respect of your race.
A place where surviving on the bare essentials and the relentless Arizona heat make for a hellish sentence. Or, as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio boasts: “I already have a concentration camp, it's called Tent City.”
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