Under the blazing Arizona sun stands an encampment of military tents filled with some 2,000 people. They battle the heat by positioning themselves in front of a few large fans, but they are of little use when temperatures reach 145 degrees. Stun fences surround the perimeter, with four Sky Watch Towers bearing down on the occupants. Facial recognition software and K-9 units keep track of the people moving about.
For the residents of Tent City Jail, their time behind bars is an exercise in humiliation: They are forced to dress in pink underwear, they “work seven days a week, are fed only twice a day, get no coffee, no cigarettes, no salt, pepper or ketchup and no organized recreation.” They work on chain gangs, and have to pay ten bucks when they want to see a nurse. This draconian treatment is not reserved for hardened criminals. In fact, most inmates in Tent City are imprisoned for less than a year for minor crimes, or are simply awaiting trial.