Tent City Inmate on How to Stay Warm: "Hold on and Pray Nothing Bad Happens"
One of the inmates who called B.S. on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's announcement that he was taking steps to keep Tent City inmates warm is still calling B.S. after spending the weekend in below-freezing temperatures.
Arpaio issued the press release last week, saying he "would like families and friends of inmates incarcerated in Tent City to know that their loved ones will be fine, despite the low temperatures."
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Inmates had access to an unlimited amount of blankets, 24-hour access to the heated day room, and hot chicken broth is being added to the evening meal for an "added touch," the press release said.
Two inmates told New Times last week that they received precisely none of that during their most recent stays on work-release, when temperatures were around 40 degrees at night.
The temperature in the Tent City zip code hit a low of 32 degrees on Saturday, and 30 degrees yesterday, and one of the inmates -- a man named John, who doesn't want his last name used for fear of retribution (he still has more jail-time left) -- said the Sheriff's Office didn't exactly follow through on the heating plans.
The warm chicken broth that was touted made an appearance, he says, but they still don't have access to the heated day room as work-release inmates, nor did they have access to an unlimited number of blankets, John claims.
"It's just nasty and cold, and they really don't care about ya," he says.
John says he's been on work-release at Tent City since October, so even though he's kind of used to staying in the tents, the temperatures are getting extreme for him -- last week, when temperatures were 10 degrees higher at night, John told us it was "a nightmare in there."
"I understand that it's jail and you're not supposed to have a good time," John tells us, but he's still upset about Arpaio's message to "families and friends of inmates" that the inmates would be protected from the cold.
John claims the new inmates are getting between one and three blankets, and the work-release inmates are still using a clothes dryer as a heat source, which doesn't really keep them warm -- maybe like an "unlimited amount" of blankets and "24 hour access" to a heated room could.
"[The inmates] kind of have to band together and take care of one another, because [Arpaio's] not doing it," John says.
Our colleague Stephen Lemons, who was hangin' with the county GOPers this weekend, quizzed Arpaio about the complaints New Times has been receiving from inmates, and here's what he came back with:
"Well, you know what?" Joe said of the prisoners on work-release. "They don't wear the [prisoners'] uniform. They can bring all [their clothes] into the tent. Say it's going to be very hot [sic] tonight. C'mon, you're out working, you're coming back to the tents at night, put on a lot of clothes.
"Now the regular guys in there, they don't go out and work, they can't do that. But we give 'em a lot of blankets. Plus they have that building they can go in, where the showers are."
"But one of the guys who called Matt who was on work release said he couldn't go into that building," I countered.
"Yeah," he said, acknowledging this point. "But they can dress [warm]."
"Can they go back to their homes and get extra clothing?" I asked.
"Well, they should be goin' to work," he said. "It's work release. They're supposed to have a job, that's why the judge says alright we'll give you work release."
Um, so the lesson here is to keep lots of warm clothing at your workplace, in case you get popped for something, and have to do some nights in Tent City during the winter?
So, perhaps the best method of surviving the cold in Tent City, according to John, is to "hold on and pray nothing bad happens."
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