Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City (Part 4 by Guest Blogger Daniel Horne)
Daniel Horne spent almost a year in Tent City. He is a business executive, husband, and father of two. Following a car accident, Daniel was not charged with drunk driving, but with aggravated assault – in Arizona’s legal system a car can be classified as a weapon you assault someone with. He is the author of the book, Accidental Felons and blog
“Nothing, but it’s all part of their game, man. Almost everyone I’ve met in this place is here for using drugs, DUI, or a probation violation. So, what’s your story?”
“I’m here for Aggravated Assault.”
“You? Man, there must be something I don’t see. Who’d you shoot?”
“Nobody. I was in an automobile accident.”
“Was somebody maimed?”
“No, but the county attorney got pretty crafty with my case, too. I ended up taking a plea. I call it ‘Trial by Prosecutor’. The County Attorney charged me with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. There was no way I could get a fair trial. It’s interesting how he does that. He holds a gun to your head and says ‘Sign here’. Then he hangs your reputation on his wall like it’s a trophy to prove how many bad people live here.”
“Trial by prosecutor... I like that,” William said. “That’s pretty much what it’s become these days with mandatory sentencing, hasn’t it? I’m sorry dude. How long are you going to be here?”
“A year, but I’m supposed to get Work Furlough. I’m worried about that. I don’t seem to be going to Work Furlough, unless this is a stop along the way, and I’ve been away from work for a week.”
“A year! Christ, dude, get yourself another attorney. You don’t want to be in this place a whole year. Why didn’t you go to prison? It’s safer in prison.”
“My family, man. I’d go through hell for them.”
“Well, that’s pretty much what you’ve chosen to do. This is as close to hell as it gets in America. I admire your courage.”
“No courage to it, William. I didn’t do it for me. If I’d gone away for ten years, it could have destroyed my marriage, and who knows what would have become of my children.”
“Man, that woman you ran into must have wanted your balls hung on a stick,” William said.
“No, actually she was quite gracious,” I replied. “She didn’t show up at sentencing, and she told the prosecutor that she didn’t want me to go to jail. They didn’t charge her with anything, so my guess is that she wanted to stay as far away from these people as possible. I can’t blame her, and I’m glad they didn’t go after her. She might have gone to prison if they had, and that would have been as wrong as this.”
“I know. This county has gone to hell.”
“It’s not just Andrew Thomas. This sort of abuse is growing all across America. People like Andrew Thomas are rising to power like weeds. It’s the damned mandatory sentencing that’s the problem. It provides a shield for political predators like him to hide behind. Almost everyone is afraid to go to trial. I know; I studied this shit for eighteen months while I was trying to figure out what happened to me. You and I are part of a bigger plan, my friend.”
“Speaking of plans, I have to go pick up the Lizard’s mail — Later.” William exited the tent to get the mail for the day.
‘Lizard’, I learned, is the male inmates’ affectionate term for women inmates. They call the women ‘Lizards’. Don’t ask me why. I can only guess what the women call the men — ‘Dumb Asses’ probably. The mail system in Tent City is clever. The mail is delivered each afternoon when the DO’s are changing shifts by tossing a sock filled with letters over the fenced barrier separating the men from the women. It starts off as a pen pal thing but often turns into a love affair between two lonely, desperate people who’ve never met, both of whom are saturated with feelings of helplessness.
William returned a few minutes later with a pink sock laden with tightly folded sheets of paper and some rocks for weight. Our tent was the mail tent, so there were plenty of visitors coming from across the yard to see if they had mail. Some of the men didn’t yet have a Lizard. They were hoping for a letter from a woman looking to hook-up or a reply to their inquiry tossed across the razor wire a few days earlier. It was an exciting time of day when William picked up the mail.
“Horne, get your gear and report to the bubble,” a guard’s voice boomed over the loud speaker.
“Dan, that’s you,” William said. “I guess you’re going to Work Furlough after all. Leave your blankets and sheets, okay?”
I gathered my few belongings to carry to the office. There wasn’t much. “William, I don’t know how to thank you enough. You guys saved my life. I owe you, but I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”
“Don’t worry about it, man,” William said. “You’ll help other people too when you get oriented to this shit hole. We help each other, dude. It’s for sure no one else gives a rat’s ass if we live or die in here. You’ll get your chance to pay it forward. Now go, or the bus will leave without you.”
Click here for Part 3.
Click here for more information on Daniel’s book, Accidental Felons.
Click here for more on Tent City by Pearl Wilson whose son was murdered there.
Jail Survival tips.
Survival Tips Video. BBC Video.
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Shaun P. Attwood