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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Charles Barkley to Serve Time in Tent City Jail

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

Former NBA star Charles Barkley will soon find himself serving ten days at Tent City, a controversial outdoor jail facility located in downtown Phoenix, as a result of a DUI arrest on New Year’s Eve.

Sheriff Joe's Tents
Sign at Tent City

Barkley was arrested Dec. 31st, 2008 after Scottsdale Police observed his vehicle failing to stop at a stop sign. Sir Charles, as he is known by throngs of basketball fans, registered a blood-alcohol content of .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in the state of Arizona. Barkley was sentenced to ten days, following a guilty plea by the former basketball star at a hearing on Monday.

Intensity in Tent City

The controversial facility, a makeshift jail in a Phoenix parking lot, has long been the subject of scrutiny, as has the man behind the idea, Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Arpaio claims he chose to house Barkley at the outdoor facility because he “didn't want to be accused of offering special privileges for celebrities“.

“I'm taking a lot of heat for putting convicted illegal immigrants in the tents. How am I going to discriminate and not put high-profile people in the tents?" quipped Arpaio.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department website, Tent City began in 1993, after Arpaio was able to acquire several surplus army tents. Rather than release inmates due to overcrowded conditions at the Maricopa County jail facility, Arpaio chose to house the inmates in a parking lot adjacent to the existing jail. The tents can often house as many as two thousand inmates.

For his part, Sir Charles has been contrite, apologizing for what he described as “unacceptable” conduct . Barkley, currently an analyst for TNT, is also expected to pay as much as two thousand dollars in fines. He is currently scheduled to begin serving his sentence on March 21st.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

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