Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona is known as America’s toughest sheriff because of his borderline fair treatment of prisoners in the Maricopa County Jail. Some of you may know about this sheriff and others may never have heard of him so let me fill you in a bit about him. He was elected sheriff in 1992 and is still the sheriff today in Maricopa County, Arizona. His claim to fame or infamy, depending on your own personal views is creating a “Tent City” in the parking lot of the county jail. This is where inmates are housed as the main prison building is full and he created the tent city to save taxpayers more than seventy million dollars for constructing a new building.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has also re-instituted the chain gang so the prisoners will work for the county and thereby saving the county a lot of money as well. The duties of the chain gang include keeping roads clean, creating fire breaks and even burying impecunious people in local cemeteries. The inmates work six days a week, eight hours a day with Sundays off. He also instituted a chain gang for women so he could not be sued for discrimination and they work seven hours a day. Members of the chain gang wear the traditional black and white striped uniforms and a cap to protect them from the hot desert sun.
Other changes Sheriff Arpaio instituted is feeding prisoners twice a day and those meals consist of mainly bologna sandwiches and has brought the cost down for the county to about forty cents a day. Other sites have varied amounts but they all agree that the inmates pay for the meals themselves. He has banned cigarettes, pornographic magazines and weightlifting equipment because he does not want the prisoners to build their muscles to go out and commit more crimes when they are released. The heat inside these tents can reach temperatures of 150 degrees and when the inmates complain about the heat, he tells them that the soldiers in Iraq have to deal with that kind of heat daily and have to wear full battle dress uniforms and they have committed no crimes. He also tells them that if they don’t like then stay out of trouble and don’t come back.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has cable television in the prison for inmates but they are only allowed to watch stations like Disney channel, CNN, and the Weather Channel. When asked why he has them watch the Weather Channel, he stated that he wants the prisoners to see how hot it will be the next day while they are working on the chain gangs. The inmates wear pink underwear because the white underwear with “Maricopa County Jail” stenciled on them was being smuggled out of the jail and sold on the streets. He says that pink is less manly in color and will less likely to be sold. In 2005, he instituted a mandatory English speaking class for non-English speaking inmates. The class is two hours long each day and lasts for two weeks. The reason for this is that prisoners housed in his jail must be able to speak English.
As the sheriff, Joe Arpaio has instituted new programs and strengthened others. One of the most flourishing programs he instituted is the all volunteer Posse program in which the volunteers aid the Sheriff’s department in search and rescue, prisoner transport, traffic control, emergency communications and something called the Holiday Mall Patrol in which the volunteers provide assistance and security protection for holiday mall shoppers. He has instituted programs for high school students and also has prisoners working in animal shelters.
Is Sheriff Joe Arpaio just doing what he can for rehabilitation or is he a man drunk with power? You Be the Judge!
For more information on Sheriff Joe Arpaio, please check the links at the bottom of this article.