My experience at Lower Buckeye Jail (Tent City) in Phoenix, AZ. I was arrested
for a DUI and sentenced to 24 hours at LBJ. Bellow is my detailed account of what
to expect if you ever get to experience this for yourself.
I self surrendered on Wednesday Oct. 8th 2010 at 6am in the morning.
* Don't show up late, they wont let you in if you're late!
* Bring your papers with you, otherwise you can't get in.
* You pick your self surrender date when you were at court. The guards will have a list of names and times for each person from the court.
* about 10 of us in total were in our group.
* small talk to break the ice with the others you're with, you'll be with them
through the next 24 hours.
They are normal folks in the same situation you are, most likely a DUI.
* No strip search, you get to wear your own cloths (you don’t have to
wear pink underwear or black & white stripe outfits)
* The processing for check-in and check-out sucks. Lots of waiting in small
holding cells for hours and hours at a time.
* the guards are friendly, just don’t give them a reason to get mad.
Self Surrender Parking Lot entrance sign
* They don't do any processing from midnight to 6am. I'd suggest checking in
later in the day. They want to process you in groups so you may
get grouped together with a larger group to make it easier for them. This may
be a way to get out a bit earlier then your 24 hrs. No guarantees.
* don't say rude comments to the guards, don't piss them off.
* list of items to bring in (with my suggestions to make it more comfortable)
- two (2) large towels - use these for a makeshift pillow or some padding to
- money. 1 dollar bills (or some quarters), no more than $40 is allowed. this is for the vending machines at the tents.
- paperback book or magazine
- 1 pair of eyeglasses
- flashlight made of plastic (no larger than c-cell batteries)
- watch - no steel wristband
- alarm clock (small battery operated) - for those doing more than 24hrs and
need to wake up for work release.
- jacket or sweater/sweatshirt (no hoods allowed)
- plastic disposable bag. use a sturdy white trash bag to carry all your things
- dress in layers - most of the holding cells are cold. a long sleeve sweatshirt
and pants is nice to have.
but once you get to the tents it'll be warm and you'll want just a t-shirt on
* guys with facial hair - if you're just doing 24 hours they don't seem to care
too much about beards, goatees, mustaches.
But if you're in for longer than 5 days and on work release you need to be clean
shaven. mustache OK but no goatee or beards.
- they wont release you for your work release if you are not clean shaven (from
what I've heard).
Self Surrender Location
6am - show up at waiting area
sit and wait for them to come out and get you.
7am - check in [~ 15 min]
- they will escort you through the main gate
- inside the gate is a parking area for inmate pickup and drop-off - here they
perform the hands on the wall frisking.
They check that you're not bringing anything in that is not on their allow list.
They'll have you take your shoes off, empty your pockets on the ground, pat
you down, and go through anything you're carrying with you.
(they'll take whatever is not on their list. don't expect to ever get it back!)
Waiting area at LBJ
7:15am - processing begins [~ 1 hr]
- they walk you inside and hand you a 2 page medical form to fill out.
(form asks for your name, address, emergency contact, lots of medical (yes/no)
- they want to make sure you're not going to get really sick or die while you're
in their jail.
* They review your answers on the form and ask various questions. Check if you need
medications, how often you need to take them, etc.
* They check your blood pressure if you state you have any such conditions.
Anything they are unsure about they'll ask their on-site doctor.
NOTE: You can be rejected if your blood pressure is too high.
* If you get rejected you'd have to go back to court to get a new surrender
date and start all over.
(I didn’t' see anyone get rejected but that's what they said would happen)
- then they take your mug shot photo. this is for your identification card
that you'll carry with you the rest of the day. Its used to identify you.
has your name, inmate number, your photo, and maybe medical conditions printed
- They enter in all your information into their computers.
8am - let the waiting begin (the worst part about this whole process) [~ 6-10
- they'll walk you and your group through a metal detector and then to one
of their many holding cells.
- here you'll sit and WAIT for hours. At least 8 hours, maybe longer.
holding cell description:
* 8-10 feet wide by 20-24 feet long. 10 foot ceilings.
* ALL concrete
* narrow concrete bench for sitting along both sides
* painted a dull white
* windows on each side of door - cant see much from these. just across the hall
to another holding cell and watch people walk by from time
* large sliding door that locks. - has 4 smaller windows on it.
* small stainless steel toilet with sink above it in the corner of the cell
* short 4ft divider wall between toilet and sitting area. Taking a piss is not
so bad, taking a shit would really suck.
(you'll stink up the cell which will piss the others off and they all get to
watch you grunt one out. Nobody shit while I was there)
* they keep the cells really cold. I think they do this to keep people from
sweating - minimize smell of body odor, and you'd probably get
a lot more restless if you were too hot. maybe it keeps cold viruses from spreading
as easily as well.
* there's always a hint of BO and piss lingering in the cell.
* small security camera mounted in top corner of cell on the ceiling.
- They will continue to bring people in that are self surrendering later in
the day. until your holding cell is full.
- They'll pack you in to one cell so its a bit uncomfortable. Enough room to
sit but don't expect to sprawl out and lay down.
- after a few hours pass, a guard will come by, call you by name, to get your
finger printing done.
- when your prints are done they put you into another holding cell were you'll
sit for hours again.
they move you from cell to cell to help them keep track of what step in the
process you're in.
(ie- 1 cell for just got in, another for finger prints done, etc)
4pm - transfer to tents [~ 2 hours]
- take you out of the holding cell, line you up in the same room where they
took your mug shot.
- this is the first (but not last) time you'll be put into handcuffs.
(both hands out in front and then cuffed so you can still carry your belongings)
- they walk you out into the parking area and load you into a van or larger
(the back of the van is divided into 3 sections. they'll put 10 people in through
the back door (5 on each side),
and another 5-6 people in through the side door.)
- they then drive you out to the tents (5min drive)
- thankfully they don't keep you in the transport vehicles for very long: they
are dark, cramped, and uncomfortable.
- arrive at the tents area, they unload you, walk you inside to another holding
- here they remove your cuffs and put you all into another smaller holding cell.
smaller cell, less sitting area, same toilet with sink but no divider
- you'll be in this cell for roughly an hour.
- they remove you all from the holding cell, line you all up along a wall and
do another hands on the wall frisking and check your personal items.
(remove your shoes and socks, empty your pockets, remove your jacket if your
wearing one, pat you down, check your carry along things)
- they'll then handcuff you to the guy next to you - one wrist to the other
persons wrist and then walk you out of the holding area.
- its then a few hundred yards walk to the actual tent area.
- you'll stand outside the tent area until the guards are ready to take you
inside the fenced off area.
- once inside the tents area you'll wait for them to find a tent and empty
bunk bed for each person in your group.
during this time you can walk over to get food/drinks out of the vending machines,
use the rest room, get a drink of cold water
from the two large drinking water tanks. you don't get a cup so buy a plastic
bottle of soda or water to use to fill up with drinking water.
- they'll then hand you your bedding (1 small towel, 1 bed sheet, 1 blanket)
and they write your tent # and bunk # on your ID.
Tent City Area
6pm - in the tent area. [~ 3-4 hours ]
- go find your bunk in your designated tent. the numbers are written on the
bunk. Ask someone walking around if you're unsure where your tent/bunk is.
the work release folks that have been there for a few days should be able to
help you out.
they just put you where they have room so your group will get split up somewhat
between all the available tents.
(don't take anything from someone else bunk, lots of the bunks will be empty
but that's because the people are out on work release, they'll be back
later that night)
* they are not clean by any means, you'll need to straighten up around your
area and setup your bunk with your sheet and blanket.
* remember your bunk and tent number. they call you by your # instead of your
name over the intercom sometimes.
its a two digit tent #, and a 2 digit bunk #. (4 digits total).
- you're now free to roam around the tent area. get food/soda from commissary,
use bathroom, just hang out.
* available food - I'm sure they run out of things but here's an idea of what
is available in the vending machines:
- bags of chips, beef jerky, Lunchables, ham sandwich, burritos (no microwave
though), various candy bars, etc.
- grooming machine has: deodorant, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, and
similar such items
- soda machines and one with bottles of water
soda and water was $1.50/ea. smaller snacks were $0.75 - $1.00. larger snakes were $2 - $2.50/ea.
- they'll do head counts ever 2 hours. you need to be in or next to your bunk
with your ID out when the guard walks by to check that you are there.
(they announce these over the loud intercom speakers)
- if your jonesing for a smoke you can probably buy one off someone there. I
saw a group of guys smoking in their tent. just don't get caught.
- the guards are not actively walking around, they stay near the front of the
yard checking people in and out. or hanging out in their offices.
- they'll serve you some of the famous food at dinner time. they just wheel
out a bunch of reusable lunch trays full of the food all stacked up on a few
its just left there in the yard, you can walk up and grab one if you want one.
(2 slops of random stuff, chopped up vegetable, and fruit with 1 bread roll,
and a plastic spoon)
(i tried the food just to see how bad it really was, i had to find out for myself.
I though I use to like school cafeteria food so figured it couldn't
be that bad. Well I was wrong, it was awful! Even the bread roll was almost uneatable.)
return the food tray to where you got it after you're done.
- from time to time they ask for volunteers (over the loud speaker) to help
them wheel out the food and take it back. wheel out trash, etc.
(if your there for a few days its probably nice to kill some time doing odd
jobs. i didn't volunteer for any choirs)
- when they are ready to begin processing you out they'll call you by name
(or #) to come up to the front office.
(I was asleep when they called my name. thankfully one of the guys in my group
heard my name and came and woke me up).
- you'll be with roughly the same group of guys when they begin the checkout
9pm - "processing out begins" [~ 10 hours]
- they'll get all the guys together that are set to be processed out of the
tents, handcuff you in pairs (you and another guy),
walk you back to the smaller holding cells area.
- your handcuffs are removed and then you're all put back into one of the holding
cells where you'll wait to get bused back over to the main processing area where
you started your day.
you'll sit in there for a few hours until they are ready to take you back.
- they'll line you up again, cuff your hands together, load you onto the bus,
and drive you back to the processing building.
- you're unloaded off the bus, walked inside, uncuffed, and then placed into
another holding cell.
- you'll wait in these holding cells for the remainder of your stay (moving
from one to another every few hours).
- after a few hours they'll remove you from the first cell, take another set
of finger prints (not sure why), and put you in another cell.
- then you're placed in another cell for those waiting to be released.
- don't expect to get out early. if you went in at 7am and are spending 24
hours, expect to get released at 7am the next day.
- the last few hours are the worst because you're anxious to get out, you're seeing
others before you getting released and your tired. Your time will
come, just be patient.
- you are released out the same place you came in (at the waiting area).
7am - you're a free man!
* there is a pay phone at the waiting area so if you need to call someone to
pick you up you can do it there. have a phone card or change to make your
call (or ask to borrow someones cell phone if they are around and willing)
* there are also 1 or 2 cab drivers that hang out there to give you a ride if
you need one. (not sure if they are always there, you may have to call one
to come pick you up)
during your stay you'll hear everyone’s stories of how they got busted,
lots of marijuana and drug talk. lots of criminal tails and encounters with
some of the stories will shock you and others are pretty funny. It
makes for passing the time a bit easier.
I think they do a pretty good job of keeping the hardcore criminals away from
the short stay folks during the entire process. Don't worry about having a run-in with a crazy killer or rapist.
You'll be in with all walks of life, young and old, every race, creed, and
color. Married, guys with families, etc.
For more LBJ self surrender information check out the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office website