"In August, in a tent, with the heat in Florida, your brain's going to boil, and that ain't a very good thing," Mr. Sheppard says. "They've tried this before, and were made to take the tents down, now they're trying it again and it will fail again."
"The technology of the type of tent may have changed, and the law may have changed, but it didn't work then and it won't work now," he says.
The US Supreme Court addressed the issue the last time that the Florida Department of Corrections used smaller tents to temporarily house inmates coming into the prison system before their assignment to a permanent facility.
Although not specifically mentioned in the justices' decision at the time, the tents were among a number of measures adopted by Florida to tackle overcrowding that were ruled unconstitutional in the 1977 Costello v. Wainwright case.
Ironically, it was that action, finally settled in the middle of the last decade, which seems to have led indirectly to Florida looking again at canvas for convicts. With the intention of avoiding similar challenges from prisoners about conditions in overcrowded jails, state lawmakers mandated that its prison system must always carry a cushion of spare bed space.
Now, with an inmate population rising by more than 5 percent in 2007, faster than in any other state according to recently released figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the corrections department under pressure to trim its $2.3 billion annual spending, Florida has turned to the $9,000 tents.
This time, says corrections spokesperson Gretl Plessinger, the department looked at all the legal issues surrounding their use and was satisfied.