As the ACLU's lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for his inhumane treatment of prisoners housed in the hell holes he calls jails in and around Phoenix kicks off today, one would think the sheriff would have tried his best to look outright holy in the public's eye. Not so. In fact, quite the opposite is true of the man who declares that he loves being sued, sucking up the television spotlights, and being called upon by Fox Noise as though he were America's Sheriff.
Arpaio appeared yesterday in front of reporters in Phoenix and tried to use documents long debunked by the courts to 'prove' his case for the cameras. This lying, tyrannical, bumbling excuse for a lawman may yet find out that voters in Maricopa County have had enough. He may also yet find himself behind the bars of the very jails he oversees.
It's always hard when one who has been propped up by the media to be a national hero turns out to be little more than a common thug. One who believes the laws of the land are to be obeyed by others, but not himself. But all of that will change very quickly if a group of Arizonans calling themselves Joe's Got To Go have there way. Putting together a web site that details so many instances of wrongdoing and criminal conduct by the ham handed sheriff, that it is almost surprising that Arpaio hasn't arrested himself. Let's see what the law and order types have been up to.
Since January of 2004, Arpaio has had over 3,500 lawsuits launched against him. The accusations range from abuse of prisoners, jail conditions so horrible they'd make Bush and Cheney blanch, wrongful deaths in his jails, destruction of evidence to cover up the true facts of those deaths, and many many other charges. The total bill to the citizens of that particular county has been $42 million dollars since 2004. In one of the wrongful death suits, a blind prisoner who was serving a short stint for shoplifting was in solitary confinement when he was found with a broken neck, broken toes, severe internal injuries, and a ruptured intestine. Arpaio brushed off the death as a 'poor guy who fell out of bed'. When a lawsuit was filed by the man's family, all evidence of what happened to the man 'disappeared', with the court finding that Arpaio's deputies had destroyed evidence. So much for law and order.
The funny thing about these 'Bring 'em on' lawsuits though, is that Arpaio keeps referring to the money being thrown down the well as "my money'. No, Joe, the money belongs to the taxpayers. It's not your personal piggy bank. Using private attorneys paid for with taxpayer dollars to fight these suits instead of the county's lawyers, somehow smacks of criminal conduct, as in misappropriation of taxpayer money. Looked at another way, the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston had a combined total of 61 lawsuits against jail conditions between 2004 and 2008.
One of Joe's many violations of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution he swore to defend and uphold includes the placing of cameras in the bathroom areas of the women's section of his horror show, and streaming it live on the web for all to tune in and watch. It took a lawsuit to get him to stop. Anyone else would have been charged with all sorts of sexual offenses, and be labeled a sex offender. Let's just assume by his actions that he is one.
In his attempt to make the Maricopa County Jail System the most terrible gulag in the world, surpassing Gitmo and Abu Garib, Arpaio feeds his prisoners only twice a day. One meal almost always consists of contaminated baloney and rotten fruit. Arpaio justifies this by saying he's saving the county money, despite being told by the courts he can not do this. Another practice that is completely outside the bounds of the law, is Arpaio's use of better conditions for confessions. Those who wish to have a trial by jury are left to swelter in tents in the middle of the desert, in 120 degree heat. If you agree to a plea bargain that will end in conviction, you're moved inside.
In today's East Valley Tribune, there is a 'special report' that shows that at least 60 inmates have died between 2004 and 2008 due to a lack of medical treatment. In one of the cases, a woman brought into the jail told deputies that she was a diabetic, gave them the schedule for her insulin shots, and was placed in a cell. When the time came for her shot, staff ignored her, and when she went into insulin shock, other inmates pleaded with deputies to get her medical attention. The pleas went unanswered and the woman died. Her crime? A probation violation for drug paraphernalia.
Joe also has shown a love for bugs. Refusing any sort of pest control at his facilities, the cockroach problem is so bad that inmates are reduced to buying extra tubes of toothpaste to seal up cracks in an attempt to keep the critters out. Former inmate Shaun Attwood, who spent two years in Arpaio's roach hotels writes all about his experiences on his blog. An excert: " On Wednesday, I was moved back to my original floor, into one of the most infested pods in the building. Completely unarmed with AmerFresh, I watched helplessly as the cockroaches sized me up from the myriad cracks in the walls. I knew as soon as the lights went off I was doomed. My cellmate, Mark, and I didn’t get much sleep. We stayed awake watching the legions of cockroaches conquer the room. Slowly gathering into larger numbers around us, they swarmed the floor. The walls. The ceiling. Our commissary bags. And finally, our bunks."
Despite actual street marches in Guadalupe and Mesa against Arpaio, and demands that conditions for inmates be improved, Arpaio laughs the protests off as the actions of malcontents, and declares that he'll run things as he sees fit. Court orders? Ha! He's the sheriff don't you know, and as sheriff HE IS the law! And he proved it when he attacked the local press, in particular, The Phoenix New Times. In violation of who knows how many laws, Arpaio got the County Attorney to issue secret grand jury subpoenas for the records of all of the publication's online subscribers for the past four years. Huh? Why would he do that you ask? Because the New Times revealed the sheriff's questionable real estate transactions, so the good sheriff promptly had the newspaper's leaders arrested on made up charges of revealing a law enforcement officer's address. The paper's investigations into Arpaio and the County Attorney, Andrew Thomas revealed intimidation of political rivals, racial profiling by the Sheriff's Department, shady land deals, and the intimidation of media critics. The entire arrest affair escalated to the point that when Village Voice Media Executive Michael Lacey tried to get some background on the details of the arrest of the New Times personnel, HE was arrested himself!
That was when the public finally had enough of the Chicago mafia tactics of their run amok sheriff and the County Attorney dropped all charges due to the outcry. See, Arpaio doesn't believe that he has to follow the Constitution or the law period. Ten different studies have shown his treatment of prisoners to be inhumane and one of the studies, done by Arpaio himself, says that all of Arpaio's facilities fall far below the Constitutional standards of humane treatment. These are not all hardened criminals we're talking about here. We're talking about people awaiting trial, or even just a preliminary hearing. Not convicts, but citizens who can not afford the monstrously high bails. As citizens, there can be no punishment meted out, but yet, in Arpaio's guilty till proven innocent fun ride, punishment for the sake of punishment is the name of the game. He says so himself. That's called sadism in any other circle of people.
The voters of Maricopa County have a chance to dump this legal terrorist by the side of the road come November 4th. All indications are that they will, as Democrats are pressing hard. Not just because Joe Arpaio is a Republican up for re-election, but because he's a law breaking, stalinistic, dictatorial, neo-con piece of gutter trash, and the side of the road is where trash belongs. Better yet, hopefully after he's voted out of office and the new sheriff decides a house cleaning is due, Joe Arpaio will get to visit the hellish conditions he imposed on fellow Americans. Someone please make sure there's an extra set of pink underwear saved with his name on them...............