Chain gangs and tent cities: 21st Century America?

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 at 9:49 pm

So I have to admit, when I hear the words “chain gangs” or “tent cities” the first images that pop into my head are, respectively, of the early 20th century South when racism was rampant and refugee camps of persons escaping war-torn countries.

I don’t think “today,” “21st Century America,” or “Arizona.”

But apparently I should.

Today, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maripoca County, Arizona plans to place 220 immigrant detainees in a chain gang and march them to the tent city where they will now be housed. The tent city will then be surrounded by an electric fence which the sheriff jokes, the immigrants “won’t want to scale.”

He even issued a press release inviting the press to come and watch the spectacle:


Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Lindsey Smith
Media Relations – M.C.S.O.
Office: 602-876-1802


Electric Fence to Minimize Escape Risk

(PHOENIX, AZ.) At 1:00 PM tomorrow, Wednesday, February 4, 2009, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will order of approximately 200 illegal aliens to be chained and marched into a separate area of Tent City, their new place of incarceration until their sentences are served and the illegal aliens are deported to their home countries.

The move to Tent City frees up much needed space in the Sheriff’s hard facilities serving as a management tool for potential jail overcrowding, Arpaio says.

More importantly, the move is a financially responsible alternative to taxpayers already over burdened by the economic drain imposed by a growing number of illegal aliens on social services like education and healthcare.

The move also facilitates security and transportation issues as well as provides easier and quicker access for foreign government visits to these inmates, the Sheriff says.

The move to Tent City also makes room for the future. Now that the Arizona state government has given Arpaio back his $1.6 million dollars slated for fighting illegal immigration, more arrests by the Sheriff’s human smuggling unit and crime suppression operations are anticipated.

“We have expanded the tents to be able to house as many as 2500 inmates out of the 10,000 currently incarcerated in the jails,” Arpaio says. “As we planned the expansion, I decided to have a special area to house this particular population of inmate more effectively and safely. Starting tomorrow, Tent City will be their new address,” Arpaio says.

Tent City is Arpaio’s canvas incarceration compound which he opened in August of 1993. Since then, it has been a safe and cost effective way of housing inmates and has gained worldwide attention as a model jail program. The consolidation of a large number of illegal aliens into Tent City, Arpaio says, should pose no substantial security problems as the area where they will be housed is protected by an electric fence.

“This is a population of criminals more adept perhaps at escape,” the Sheriff says. “But this is a fence they won’t want to scale because they risk receiving quite a shock – literally.”

Tomorrow’s move is expected to take about an hour as the illegal aliens make their way from the Durango Jail complex to Tent City on Gibson Road. Traffic will be rerouted during the transfer, Arpaio says.

The inmates will enter Tent City through the west gate and pick up their bedding before making their way to their section of the tents.

They will be treated like all other inmates incarcerated here with two exceptions. Arpaio wants them to be instructed in American immigration laws, as a way to help them understand that the violation of these laws has serious consequences not only to them but to society as a whole. And anyone found to violate jail rules, may end up on a chain gang. This chain gang will work to clean the areas of the valley, which have been impacted by human trafficking trade.

The inmate march begins at 1:00 PM on Wednesday beginning at the entrance gate of Durango Jail on Gibson Street. The 220 inmates will march east to Tent City. Interested media are asked to park on the access road west of Estrella Jail at 2939 West Durango. SEE MAP ATTACHED. Sheriff Arpaio will answer questions at 1:30 PM from inside Tent City. Call the on call Media Relations person for more information.

But maybe people should watch it. So they realize that this spectacle belongs to centuries of the past, not our present, and god forbid our future.

Chain gangs, tent cities, and forced labor….it’s not the vision that I have for my community.


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