Joe Arpaio is notoriously tough on his Tent City prisoners. And now he seems to be going Marie Antoinette on them.
Over the weekend, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona celebrated the 20th anniversary of the controversial facility in Phoenix , giving inmates access to cake, coffee, unrestricted television, movie rentals, candy cigarettes, and copies of Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day.
According to a press release put out the by the sheriff’s office, Arpaio authorized the so-called “Retro Day” for the 1,000 inmates in the open air jail a treat.
“It’s a celebration that we all deserve,” said the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff.” He has previously called the jail a “concentration camp.” And Tent City was recently named as one of America’s 10 worst prisons by Mother Jones.
Arpaio has said he created Tent City in 1993 to address overcrowding in existing jails and to save taxpayer dollars at the expense of comforts afforded to the inmates. Before Arpaio was elected in 1992, prisoners were allowed coffee, cigarettes, television and movie rentals.
The facility has come under intense scrutiny, however, for the sweltering temperatures inside the tents, which have been clocked in anywhere between 20 to 145 degrees. Prisoners are forced to wear cartoonish black and white prison stripes and pink underwear. The ACLU has called the conditions “inhumane.”
Arpaio has also been criticized for his controversial stance on immigration. Earlier this year, a federal judge found Arpaio racially profiled Latinos and ordered the sheriff to stop factoring race into his law enforcement decisions.
He called the 20th anniversary of Tent City a “landmark day,” adding “One day in 20 years…the inmates ought to be able to have a little fun.”