Sunshine, Vistas ... And Criminals

As winter tightens its grip around much of the nation, the lucky people of Yuma, Ariz., are still in shirtsleeves. Even in January, temperatures in this Sunbelt spot average in the mid-60s.

But when Michelle Longoria invited The Early Show for a visit, she really piqued some interest with the intriguing fact that Yuma's high school is nicknamed "Home of the Criminals."

Co-anchor Julie Chen headed west to check it out, for the latest installment in the "Tour My Town" series.

She quickly learned that it's Yuma's climate that draws thousands of visitors every winter. They fill the RV parks, some of which offer their very own golf courses, and nearly double the city's population.

But back to that business about the criminals. Chen followed up and found that when freshmen arrive at Yuma High School, they are "sentenced" to four years at the school. And when they graduate, they are considered "paroled".

Even the school's mascot is a "criminal" — and that can lead to some amusing misunderstandings.

"A lot of times kids think that we are reform school kids, kids that have been in trouble and that's why we're nicknamed the criminals," said Louie Pisano, Yuma High's basketball coach.

Actually, the real story began nearly 100 years ago, before Arizona was even a state.

That's when the area's most hardened convicts were sent to the Arizona Territorial Prison, an institution built from the bottom up by convict labor.
  • Polly Leider

Comments