Kids Get to Spend a Night in Prison in ‘Tent City’
A new program called TOUGH lets kids experience life as an inmate in Tent City in the hopes that the experience helps them stay clear of a life of drugs and crime.
Tent City has become widely known in recent years as the place in prison you don’t ever want to go. Sheriff Joe Arpaio created Tent City in 1993 due to budget shortages and his desire to never release inmates simply due to jail overcrowding. So, he created an inexpensive outdoor jail using surplus military tents, fencing, and electric costs for heating, cooling, and lights. Currently the Tent City jail holds up to 2,126 inmates. Imagine spending prison time there in the summer heat of Arizona!
There is news of a new program in Arizona called TOUGH (Teen Orientation Underscoring Good Habits) which lets students spend the night in jail in Tent City and experience all of the glory and fun it has to offer. The program lets the students spend a total of 20 hours, including overnight, with a parent and teacher in the jail. They get to live the full jail experience including jail uniforms, jail food, labor, sleeping arrangements, and of course following all of the standard jail rules. The students also get to meet with actual inmates who tell stories of their life in jail and about how their choices landed them there.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words…well, sometimes teaching a topic to students and teens simply isn’t enough to get the full message across and have it really sink in. A program like TOUGH lets the students actually live it and experience the real life of an inmate. While most people would never consider the idea of being jail as fun, the actual experience of being there can make a true lasting impression that hopefully succeeds in the programs goal of helping to keep kids away from a life of drugs and crime. Life on the outside is a whole lot better than living in a tent in the desert!
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the TOUGH program, takes applications on their website.