In 1993 Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio set up a “Tent City” as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, Arizona in an effort to tackle over-crowding without building a new jail. All inmates in Tent City are required to wear pink underwear and old fashioned striped jump suits.
Women are not excluded from Tent City and participate in the Chain Gang to get out of being on lockdown for 23 of 24 hours a day due to infractions. The chain gang works six days a week cleaning up the county and also completing indigent burials. It is America’s only Female Chain gang.
Since 2006 “America’s Toughest Sheriff” as Arpaio likes to be called, has increasingly focused energy on the undocumented Latin American community in Maricopa County. The County Sheriff’s office has approximately 162 federally trained 287(g) officers. Under 287(g), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) provides state and local law enforcement with the training and subsequent authorization to identify, process, and when appropriate, detain immigration offenders they encounter during their regular, daily law-enforcement activity.
Tent City is located in a yard next to a more permanent structure containing toilets, showers, an area for meals, and a day room. It has become notable particularly because of Phoenix’s extreme temperatures. Daytime temperatures inside the tents have been reported as high as 150 °F (65 °C) in the top bunks. During the summer, fans and water are supplied in the tents.