- HBO Grants Game of Thrones Epic Season 4Posted 45 days ago
- Dispute Gets Game of Thrones Actor The Tyson VS Holyfield TreatmentPosted 52 days ago
- Game of Thrones: George R. R. Martin Makes a Cameo in Season 4Posted 55 days ago
- Jon Snow & Ygritte Get Cozy In Game of Thrones Portraits!Posted 58 days ago
- Watch The Newest Game of Thrones Trailer!Posted 59 days ago
- Game of Thrones Season 3 is a Beast Waiting to be StirredPosted 61 days ago
- Game of Thrones Recap: Get Caught Up On Season 2Posted 67 days ago
- Game of Thrones Extended Season 3 Trailer Has Bears, Sex, Flaming Swords and Everything ElsePosted 74 days ago
- Game of Thrones: Shadowed Cast in New Season 3 PostersPosted 76 days ago
- Game of Thrones Season 3 is Chaotic in New Teaser from HBOPosted 95 days ago
WROUGHT-IRON ROUND-UP: Maricopa County Jail
Most jails don’t give you the “dime tour,” as ol’ Brooks Hatlen would say. That’s where I come in. I’ve laid my head on the thinnest pillows on the hardest slab bunks in some of the toughest correctional facilities here in the greatest, most prolific prison-building nation in the history of the world. I’m Johnny 99. These are my stories.
“When you bringing ‘er back?”
“I should only need it a couple hours.”
He gave me a look. “Couple hours?”
He grimaced and continued punching my information into the computer.
“There a liquor store ’round here?” I asked.
He looked up and lowered his glasses. “Come again?”
“Place to grab a bottle of—” I stopped short. His brow jerked to a point. “—uh, smokes?”
He took his glasses off and folded them into his shirt pocket. “Look, son. I don’t know your business, and I don’t need to know. You come in here looking for ‘a white windowless van with no markings on it,’” he cleared his throat. “Your words. Look like you hitchhiked your way ‘cross three states to get here, an’ about five minutes before closing time, at that. I run an honest bidness, here. All these here vans is insured and paid for three times over, so it ain’t the property I’m worried about. I’ll hand you over the keys just like to any other swingin’ dick come walkin’ in here with money and an ID. There’s only one thing I wanna know.”
“Speak up, Sparky.”
“You fittin’ to blow somethin’ up, son?”
I took my own glasses off and narrowed my eyes.
He swallowed hard. “What that might be?”
“The lid,” I told him, “Off Tent City, Maricopa County.”
They call it America’s Toughest Jail. Tent City at Maricopa County is less a correctional facility than an operating expression of Sheriff Joe Araipo’s personal vision of Hell—incarceration elevated to the realm of performance art.
A “Vacancy” sign flashes from the tallest guard tower for all the passing hooligans in Phoenix to see. Inmates are made to wear pink underwear and socks. Tents reach temperatures well up into the hundreds and stay there for days on end. No smoking, no sugar, no salt, no pepper. To ensure compliance, raids are conducted daily by the Special Response Team (SRT), an advanced breed of 21st century hoosegow heavies, each strapped to the gills with all manner of peace-keeping force. There have been numerous questions raised about the facility pushing the outer limits of humane treatment of prisoners, to each of which Araipo has a canned retort, possibly put together by a moonlighting quip writer for Simon Cowell.
Knowing there’s no hotter button issue in Arizona than illegal immigration, I figured an unmarked, windowless white conversion van swerving in and out of lanes in the middle of the night would draw just the type of attention I was looking for, with a BAC around .10 as insurance.
Within a half-hour of pulling out of the Jiffy Mart lot, I was in handcuffs.
CUSTOMER SERVICE – I was impressed from the get-go by the utter disdain the staff holds toward its guests. Here, you are less than a number, truly treated as something well below the realm of the human. Dissent is met with swift and brutal force. In fourteen hours of processing, I saw five guys’ faces get acquainted with various floors and walls at a high level of velocity, two other guys doused with pepper spray, and two more who were tazed. That was just in processing. Grade: A.
ACCOMMODATIONS – The holding tanks are unbearably small. I was booked in on a weeknight, and there was still no room to sit on the crowded benches. After a few of the detainees were led in and out, I was able to stake out some space on the floor to lie down.
One toilet, one drinking fountain. Bad septic smell. Frequent and physical intervention from the D.O.’s. Couldn’t ask for more.
I arrived in the “Con-Tents” portion of Tent City. I was issued a thin bedroll, a blanket, and a sheet. No pillow. In “Con-Tents,” you get to keep your street clothes on. A lot of the guys go out on work furlough. Right. Pussy shit.
To a man, almost everyone in the “Con-Tents” yard is a DUI case. It’s hot and brutal, sure, but all the real shit’s on the “In-Tents” yard. Grade: A.
STAFF AND AMBIENCE – For all that’s made of the SRT and their strong-arm approach to limiting the flow of tobacco, dope, and weapons into the facility, they sure seem to be doing a shit job of it. In fact, one of the biggest hazards of an extended stay at Tent City is getting hit in the head by incoming contraband flying in over the fence from adjacent Gibson Lane.
I got my hands on a freshly twisted cigarette within an hour. I was advised by one of the other guys to keep it on the DL, that all the Detention Officers (D.O.’s are never to be called “guard”. Remember that, if only for a moment) knew it went on, but that if they caught you, you’d get tossed over onto the “In-Tents” side of the joint in a heartbeat, where you’d immediately be indoctrinated into a race-oriented caste system, forced into black and white pajamas and pink undergarments, and be subjected to repeated, savage raids and beatings by the dreaded SRT.
“Hey guard! You got a fuckin’ light?” Grade: B+.
CUISINE – Another famous fact is that more is spent on feeding each police dog than is spent feeding each inmate. Forty cents for every swinging dick, versus a buck-twenty per dog. If they’re shelling out forty cents a head for this shit, they’re getting hosed.
A lot of joints, the food in the holding tank is worse than the food for the cons. Not the case here. The food is mostly donated, and don’t think they’re in any hurry to get it delivered to the cons in farm fresh condition. The meat and vegetables are delightfully rancid, and the bread is almost hard enough to be weaponized. Grade: A+.
THE LAST WORD – The leading edge in contemporary incarceration, not to be missed by anyone looking to earn their stripes. The easy access to contraband is the only drawback. Still, toughest penalty to be levied in this country for a DUI. You can’t do much worse. Grade: A-.