The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says the space once occupied by Tent City will be used for its MOSAIC program.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says the space once occupied by Tent City will be used for its MOSAIC program.

Tent City Site Will Be Used to Combat Inmates' Opioid Addiction, Recidivism

The infamous open-air jail where inmates once wore pink underwear and sweated outside in torturous 100-plus-degree heat could now be used for some good.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that it will convert the now-defunct Tent City facility — the brainchild of former sheriff and presidential pardon recipient Joe Arpaio — into classroom and living space for MCSO's MOSAIC program. MOSAIC fights recidivism by rehabilitating inmates from substance abuse, including opioid addiction, and traumatic life events.

The site has been renovated and will now be a force focusing on correctional health. Most of the classes will take place in an air-conditioned dayroom.  The former work-furlough inmates are being moved to the Durango jail.  The tents are being stored.

The sheriff's office say all this will come at no increased cost to taxpayers.

MCSO hopes the rejuvenated version of a once-notorious jail will "lower the crime rate, save money in detention housing, and transform inmates into productive citizens,” according to a statement released today.

During a press conference held in the Tent City day room this morning, Sheriff Paul Penzone said the new center will "provide a resource and opportunity to find a path back to wellness."

"We want to be sure they have a chance to be productive," Penzone said.

Annually, half of the inmates coming into jails — about 50,000 people — are back behind bars for the second or third time, Penzone said in a press release.

MCSO is hoping Tent City can stop that vicious cycle of drug abuse and helping inmates through the events that led to their lives of crime, the release states.

“I committed that as your sheriff, MCSO would work to lower the crime rate and make good use of taxpayer dollars," Penzone said. "Tent City did neither."

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