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Tent City Diary, Part 4: 'I’m Only On My Way Up Now'

Tents Behind Fences at Sherrif Joe Arpaio's Tent City
Al Macias/KJZZ
editorial | staff
The Korean War-era tents are set up behind fencing and barbed wire in the Phoenix jail.

We’ve been hearing from a woman named Alex who was sentenced to 36 days in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Tent City. Alex was on work release — she went to jail at night and on the weekends, and was let out to go to work during the week. She recorded entries as she was on her way in and out of jail. The last of her entries were recorded after she was released from jail and as she began preparing to serve the remainder of her sentence on home detention, which was monitored by an ankle bracelet.

HEAR MORE: Complete 'Tent City Diary' Series

It’s weird — I didn’t get to record the last night that I went in. I don’t know — it wasn’t like I was nervous, but you just get this like feeling in the pit of your stomach.

What if the detention officer wasn’t right? What if they’re going to keep me in all day? You just go through a million different scenarios in your head, and you try and pick the best one and run with it.

It was so weird just being home, being able to sleep in my own bed; playing with my dog and taking my dog out for a walk. That’s all going to come to an end once I get my ankle bracelet on.

It’s crazy, but there are so many girls in there that I had become friends with. You just want to see people like that succeed in life, because they’ve been torn down so many times — just like you. They’ve hit rock bottom so many times — just like you. And some of them have no support system.

My No. 1 support system is my parents. My mother — I never would've told her this, because I recorded in front of her almost every morning — but she’s a saint. She really looked after me at this point, and made sure that I was OK and really took this in stride.

Jail’s a pretty sobering experience. And I thank God for it, because I would not have stopped drinking if I didn’t go.

It’s funny. I’m sitting here, and three people have already asked me if I’m going to party this weekend. I don’t get my ankle bracelet on until Monday. It’s Saturday morning now. And I have no intention of doing that.

They don’t understand that when you have to go through the motions of detoxing in jail, people die from that. It marks you and puts this thought in your head that, God forbid, even if I wanted to drink a beer, I just don’t wanna feel hungover. I just don’t — I don’t ever want go through feeling like that ever again.


What I’m looking forward to the next five months is really discovering a lot about myself, about those people around me who, for so many years, months — whatever — I just pushed away. I was more concerned with getting drunk or getting loaded and not really paying attention to their cares and concerns.

You know, I really look forward to repairing some of those broken relationships. And I’m really just looking forward to the future at this point.

I feel like I’ve hit my low so many times — my bottom, whatever you wanna call it. And I’m only on my way up now.

PART 1: Tent City Diary: 'The First 48 Hours Were Horrible'

PART 2: Tent City Diary: 'These People Are Good People'

PART 3: Tent City Diary: 'It's Kind Of Like A Different Hangover'

Sarah Ventre produces KJZZ’s two-hour daily program, The Show. Prior to working at KJZZ, she was a producer and editor at NPR headquarters in Washington for a number of shows, desks, podcasts and the national newscast. Her reporting ranges from understanding the relationship between faith, culture, and community among those who have left the FLDS church, to political implications of world music showcases at SXSW. Ventre’s work has been featured on Weekend Edition, Weekend All Things Considered, and on member station WAMU. Ventre also freelances for the Phoenix New Times, Bitch magazine, and several other publications. Ventre grew up in the Valley and is a founder of the nonprofit organization Girls Rock! Phoenix, which puts on a rock ’n’ roll camp for girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youths every summer. She also participates in live storytelling events, and occasionally performance art. Ventre holds a degree in anthropology from Arizona State University. She is always up for a good laugh or a great chile relleno, and is happy to have returned to her hometown to tell stories within her community.