Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feds to Sheriff Joe: "Law Enforcement ... not a reality show"

I read a lot of good criminal law blawgs and rarely miss anything by Emptywheel, who writes at Firedoglake. Today, Marcy Wheeler's occasional co-blogger, Bmaz, writes about Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

You have probably heard of the shamelessly self professed "Toughest Sheriff in America", Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For years he has been making a PR spectacle of himself, all the while running an unconstitutionally deplorable jail system, letting inmates die under tortuous conditions, and violating the civil rights and liberties of everybody in sight, especially minorities. Today, the House Judiciary Committee made public a critical and public step to rein in the Most Abusive Sheriff In America.

Bmaz goes on to quote from a letter sent from the House Judiciary Committee to former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder:

Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile… You're Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.
It is time for the federal government to step in and uphold the rule of law in this country, even in Maricopa County."

"Law enforcement is not a game or a reality show, it is a public trust," said Scott. "There is no excuse for callous indifference to the rights of the residents of Arizona, whether in their neighborhoods or as pretrial detainees."

This isn't a knock against law enforcement in general, just against those who enter the field and exploit it to expand their own images, egos and build possible Senate runs while using the Constitution to blaze this trail. As Bmaz describes Arpaio:

Joe Arpaio is a two bit carnival barker and huckster, not a dedicated law enforcement official. The opportunistic man came into office running against a fellow Republican and incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff, Tom Agnos, by bad mouthing Agnos and arguing that the entire Maricopa County Sheriff's Department needed to be cleaned up. In fact, Arpaio's winning campaign was predicated upon his willingness to mock the very department he was running to lead and promise to expose the dirty laundry of Agnos and the Sheriff's Department for its involvement in the infamous Buddhist Temple Murder case (link is a fascinating three part story), a seminal case in textbooks on coerced confessions (from the fact that four separate coerced false confessions were obtained to a single crime). Arpaio promised to restore honor to the department, and also swore he would serve only one term in office. Five terms and seventeen years later, Arpaio has failed miserably on both promises.

As Bmaz later points out, Arpaio has reasons to keep pointing to his supposed positive effect in criminal court: to distract from the $42 million plus civil verdicts that have been levied against the Sheriff's Department since he took office.

How does that figure and the number of lawsuits generated against Arpaio's Department compare to other municipalities? Bmaz quotes from this article which concludes:

"New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston
, for example, collectively housed more than 61,000 inmates per day last year. From 2004 through November of this year, these same county jails had a combined 43 prison-conditions lawsuits filed against them in federal courts.

In the very same three-year time frame, despite housing a mere 9,200 prisoners per day, Sheriff Arpaio was the target of a staggering 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts.

With a fraction of the inmate population, Arpaio has had 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im a 24 year old Maricopa County Resident born in Northern California. I never had any kind of criminal record untill i moved here to Phoenix, Arizona in 1999. I never did anything outragous or violated any major laws, but unfortunately i ended up having to serve a one year sentence in the Maricopa County Sheriff jail system. My sentence was for probation violation for a class 6 UNDESIGNATED felony. In that one year span, i nearly starved to death. The only thing i ate in there was the one peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was served for breakfast at either 6,7,or 8a.m. depending on the facility and housing unit i was housed in, and didnt get my "hot meal" until twelve hours later at either 6,7, or 8p.m. I never ate My "hot meal" due to the fact the the bread that came with the hot meal either didnt smell right, was too hard to eat, or had this green mold on it. I have copies of my inmate grievences that i submitted for these reasons which only one was resolved for. The others were not even accepted by the D.O's.
Besides the fact that in the Maricopa County Jail Facilities, they only serve two meals, one hot and one cold; most of the D.O's or Officers, were very disrespectful, uncaring, and violent. The facilities were inhumane. The ones i particularily remember was the Durango Jail facility which is rumored to have been a phsyce ward before it became property of MCSO and the Towers Jail facility which houses 3 adult men or inmates in a 8 by 5 foot cell with only one toilet and a disfunctional sanitary station for all three to share in the cell.... INHUMANE is ILLEGAL!!!!!!!! Im a United States Citezen and i think that the problem in tent city and the rest of the facilities ran by sheriff joe are a much greater problem than that of illegal immigration.

thanx for reading, DUB K.P.