Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Barkley already had been acting like a "model inmate," even chatting with others at Tent City, where inmates are housed in tents rather than traditional jail cells.
Barkley has a private tent at the notorious prison where inmates wear old-school black and white striped uniforms and emasculating pink boxers, but is close enough to other inmates to talk, Arpaio said.
Barkley, a TNT studio analyst, will spend all of Saturday in custody, but will be given work release from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. He will get work release at 8 a.m. Monday and will not have to return to the tents at 8 p.m.
That's a total of 36 hours in jail.
Arpaio said Barkley is not being given special treatment and has a separate tent for his own safety. Meals will be brought to him.
"I didn't have to put him in the tents. I could have put him in a cell all by himself — that would be special," he said. "He's just lucky it's not the summer. It's 130 degrees in the summer."
Arpaio said he planned to meet with Barkley on Saturday and ask him to talk to the county's 200 inmates ages 15 to 17 about not making the same mistakes he did.
The 45-year-old Barkley pleaded guilty last month to two misdemeanor DUI charges stemming from his Dec. 31 arrest, shortly after leaving a Scottsdale nightclub and failing a field sobriety test. He had a blood-alcohol level of .149 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.
A Scottsdale judge reduced Barkley's original 10-day sentence to three days after reviewing the case and deciding that seven days should be suspended if Barkley completes an alcohol-treatment program.
The Hall of Fame player also must pay more than $2,000 (€1,580) in fines and install an ignition-interlock device on his vehicles.
A message left with Barkley's attorney was not immediately returned Saturday.
Barkley said last month that he made a mistake and just has "to take the beatdown."
Barkley played 16 seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, and played on the USA Olympic "Dream Team" in 1992 and 1996. He was an 11-time All-Star and league MVP in 1993.