Who is going to Tent City Jail?

This law is not age discriminatory, 18 years of age and up.  I saw lots of young ladies, young men and seniors scared to death last week as they went in.   I also saw several people in tears saying goodbye to their family members as they entered the gates to Maricopa County Jail for a 30 day stay.  This is a very difficult situation, but if you understand exactly what is going to happen it will become a process that can be managed.  This information will also help your friends and families understand what is going to happen and give them some relief as well.

From the very beginning of the intake processing they will intimidate you, confuse you and keep you in the dark about everything.  For most people not knowing what will happening next is extremely frightening, especially being locked behind bars and moved from one holding cell to another.  This is psychological BS.  It is intended to frighten and confuse you.  Let's take that out of the equation!  

I want to keep this blog going and add new information often, so I will ask for a $10 donation if you feel the information helped you.  I am not going to ask you to buy a CD, log in with an account number or ask for a Credit Card, this is simply the honor system.

What to expect the first day - Processing or "Intake"

I understand Intake can take from 8 hours to 20 hours, for me it was 18 hours.  I arrived at 8:30am for a 9:00am surrender and got called in at 11:00am (but do not risk it, be on time).  When they do get around to opening the big blue doors they will call everyone in the waiting area down to get in a line.  Next they separate you- men to one side and ladies to the- other and take you inside. You must stand at the wall. Then, more intimidation; they will hand you a prison rule book, 35 pages long, filled with very scary information and printed on the front is “Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003”.  (*I have a copy of this book and can email it to you so you can review it in the comfort of your home). They will give you 2 minutes to read this, fill out a medical questionnaire and ask you some questions.  The entire time you must remain standing.  They will pat you down and move you into the photo area.  

After an hour in the photo area (they will photo everyone in the group) they will take you to your first of many holding cells (Relax, read your book).  You will spend an hour in one cell, then two in another, and maybe a third until they finally finger print you.  After finger printing you will visit another 2, 3 or 4 (Relax) holding cells before they finally chain you 2 by 2 and load you into a transport van to take you 4 blocks away to Tent City. Then you will go to a holding cell (or 2) until they process you in (one to two hours here).  

Next you will be chained together again 2 by 2 and walk a block to the entrance of Tent City.  More intimidation, you will be patted down again, told the rules of tent city, and finally taken inside.  Now you will sit by the office for 10 to 50 minutes until they get you two blankets and a towel and a bunk number.  You go make you bunk and pass out from the long day.

Important points;

*This part is a bit gross but here ya go: – In all the holding cells you will have one toilet open for all to see.  If you are not shy and can deal with that, you are good to go.  If you are like me, I planned for it.  A small dinner the night before, no breakfast or drinks in the morning I went in.  I went the first day without eating or drinking (or using that public toilet). 

*Also brings us to the food, you will be offered one bag of food during the day, it will have some juice, a roll, cookie and fruit.  I just said no thanks.

What you can and should bring, Very Important!

The jail holding cells for Intake are EXTREMELY cold. Some of the people that I checked in with had shorts and a light shirt, knowing they were going to be outside in the heat in Tent City.  Sounds logical, but they froze all day in the holding cells.  Dress in layers and carry a plastic trash bag with your extra things.  This bag will be your pillow throughout most of the day.  The clothes you wear should be junk, they will get dirty, so plan on it, it's OK.  When you move from cell to cell jump on the floor and make yourself comfortable, read your book, take a nap.

Other things to bring;

1.       1.  One huge paperback book, mine was 800 pages

2.      2.  A towel (fluffy, this will be your pillow for the day and in tent city)

3.      3.  A watch, you are not going anywhere, but it’s just a good feeling to know (you are in control)

4.     4.   One roll of quarters (no more) another $20 in singles for the vending machine when you get to tent city.

5.     5.   Extra shirt for day two 

 ****Silicone ear plugs.  You will need these once you get into tent city. They have extremely loud announcements over the loud speaker every hour and lots of background noise.  The ear plugs will cut the noise down and allow you to sleep but you will still be able to hear the announcements. 

What you can not bring

Open toe shoes


Travel bag (must be a plastic trash bag)

Cell phone

Personal hygiene (no, no and no.  you will get toothpaste and you can buy deoderent at the commissary in Tent City. )  

Living in Tent City

Not that bad, really!

OK, so the food is bad, really bad!  But if you are like most people (in this part of Tent City) you are on work release. You must spend the first 48 hours of your sentence in jail and then get to go home for 12 hours.  So don’t eat the first day, eat out of the vending machines the second day and go home the third day and pig out!

Tent City has showers, but I did not shower for the first 48 hours, just waited until I got home.

The sleeping tents are not so bad, they have big fans in them.  The bunk beds are not so bad, thin pads but a dream after being in the holding cells. 

The people – Most everyone has the same story, most all good people that made a bad decision (drinking and driving).  Don’t worry, you will be fine.

During the day it is obviously very hot, everyone stays in the tents and reads or sleeps.  Once you buy your first bottle of water from the commissary you will use it over and over to fill up from the ice water tanks, they do a good job keeping them full.

The guards – Everyone except the intro to Tent City Guard was great, same as in life, give respect and get respect in return.  I really felt bad for two older guys in our group, 68 and 72, but the guards really seemed to help them out.  Regardless of the situation, we should always respect our elders.  Thanks to the guards for that!

They do not bring in a cleaning crew, the inmates (I hate being called that) are responsible for keeping all areas clean.  They will ask for volunteers to do some cleaning, if no one volunteers they will point, “you clean that”.   Most of the time people run to volunteer because the volunteers get perks like free stuff from the commissary.  

First 48 Hours in Tent City

I believe it is mandatory for all DUI offenders to spend 48 consecutive hours in Tent City before you are eligible for  work release.

If you brought everything I suggested, then you have some money for food from the vending machines, your book and ear plugs.  The first day is mostly shot with intake.  You just have to deal with one more day before you can leave on work release.  Relax and deal with it, it’s just one day.

The process of getting in and out of Tent City - When you enter Tent City you will get a small plastic badge or ID.  This is your pass to get in and out of tent city for work release, it also has your bunk number on it.  Next to the guard house is a gray box marked “ID BOX”.   You pre selected a time to enter and leave tent city based on your work schedule, this is 12 hours in and 12 hours out.  Lets say you chose 9am to 9pm and started the intake process on a Monday at 9am.  After you have been in tent city for 46 hours, now it is Wednesday at 7am, you put your ID in the “ID BOX” (two hours before you designated time) and at 9am they call your name for release.

The release – Depending on the time you choose for release you will either have a huge crowd to deal with, like at 7 or 8am or not so much at 4am or 10am.  The process is very simple, everyone that turned in an ID for that time will be released.  The guard stands at the gate and calls out our name, you say “that's me” and walk out the door (he will keep the ID card), and you are free (for 12 hours).

The Return – When you return you will stand in line until the guard opens the first set of gates.  They will give you your ID card back when you re-enter.  He will motion you in, you will take your shoes off, empty your pockets and turn towards the fence and wait for him to pat you down.  Once he is done with this he will ask to see your wallet, purse, shoes, etc.  When he is satisfied that you brought nothing illegal in, he will release you.  You are free to just walk to your bunk.

Special Note – They do random drug and alcohol testing.  Don’t be a freaking idiot and come back with a buzz.   They will bust you, take away your release days and move you to the other tent city - On the spot!  No work release, no street clothes, and a whole different class of people.  Regardless if you are spending 5 days or 6 months, that 12 hours out is not worth risking.  (One kid came in to intake drunk from the night before, he thought he was going to spend 10 days in work release in his own clothes.  They pulled him out, put him in pink underwear and striped jumpsuit and sent him to straight time, no release – DON’T DO IT.  

Sugestion for day and time to enter Tent City and last day out

Well I think I did it wrong.  I went in on a Saturday, me and about 300 others!  This is why I had 20 hours of processing time.  It is about timing, if you have only 5 days go in on Saturday and deal with the first 48, then you will have the next 3 days as work release.  If you have 10 days go in on a Monday.  You will still spend 4 full days in Tent City and 6 days in work release but your processing time IN and OUT will be much quicker!

HUGELY IMPORTANT!!!  I was told by several people they got 7 days a week work release due to the fact they work 7 days a week.  They asked for it and the judge gave it to them, ASK FOR THE SAME!!  If only I would have known  this!

Good to know – Your process out is the same mess as the Intake only in reverse.  This will take 8 to 16 hours.  Don’t be in a hurry, relax, this will be another full day of BS.  Bring a new book to read, put those old (warm and layered) clothes on again.  Grab a spot on the floor of each holding cell they move you to, nap and read.  You will feel great when you get out and not all stressed in a knot!

Other Hints

Don't be early for Intake, just be on time

Don't be early when you return from work release, if you are to be back at 9pm do just that or you will just stand around

I don't do drugs but I take two extra strength Tylenol before I returned to check in.  They helped me sleep and eased my back pain from the thin pads on the bunks

I found that 9am to 9pm was a great time for work release.  I read for an hour when I got in and then slept, temp was cooler then as well.

If you can do Tent City and work full time, then you are better than I.  I took some time off and only worked 4 hours per day.  

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