There has been considerable news coverage of Sheriff Joe Arpaio since he became the chief law enforcement officer of Maricopa County, Arizona in 1993. In fact, he has been profiled in over 2,000 publications all over the world. As a former deputy sheriff, I have been intrigued by Sheriff Joe’s tough approach to crime and criminals. So I decided to profile him in Conservative Truth.
Sheriff Joe is perhaps best known for his famous Tent City Jail which houses over 2,000 inmates. Meddling federal judges had decreed that the County’s jails were “overcrowded.” (Tell that to law-abiding citizens in the area, who live in much more crowded housing than do the prisoners.) Instead of bowing to pressure from the federal government and releasing thousands of prisoners, Arpaio put up surplus Army tents next to one of the jail buildings, and surrounded the area with barbed wire.
It would be a massive understatement to say that Arpaio doesn’t believe in coddling criminals. He wants his jails to be what jails were intended to be – a deterrent to crime. He wants his “guests” to be so happy to leave his facilities that they will never want to return!
The good sheriff follows the law to the letter. He provides food, clothing and shelter to the inmates. Anything beyond that is not required and is not provided.
He has taken away “comforts” that are common in jails and prisons across our nation. For instance, Sheriff Joe has eliminated smoking and porno magazines in all eight County jails. If someone can show him that prisoners have a constitutional right to lung cancer or porn, I am sure he will reinstate these things.
He also took away weight-lifting equipment. Sheriffs and wardens have long complained that prisoners spend hours every day “bulking up” with weights and becoming extraordinarily strong. Jail and prison guards don’t have the luxury of hours of weight training every day. And the result has often been that super-strong inmates have attacked and over-powered guards. Instead of complaining about this, Joe did something about it.
He started chain gangs so the inmates could do something useful with their time. They do free work on county and city projects. Then he started the first female chain gangs in the country so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination. He also started the nation’s first juvenile chain gang.
He cut off cable TV because all the prisoners watched were R and X-rated movies. Then he found that there was a ridiculous federal law that requires cable TV in jails. So he hooked the cable TV back up, and now only allows the Disney Channel and the Weather Channel. When he was asked why he allowed the Weather Channel he replied, “So they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”
He removed coffee from the jails because it has no nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them, "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."
He bought Newt Gingrich' lecture series on videotape to play in the jails. When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a Democrat, he replied that a Democratic lecture series might explain why a lot of the inmates were in his jails in the first place.
Recently when temperatures reached a new record of 116 degrees, inmates were allowed to lie in their bunks in the Tent City Jail instead of working. "It feels like we are in a furnace," complained one inmate who has lived in the tents for 1 1/2 years. "It's inhumane."
Joe Arpaio told all of the inmates: "It's120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!"
Arpaio heads the nation’s third largest Sheriff’s Office, which employs over 3000 people. The County he serves is the size of Rhode Island.
Quoting from the County Sheriff’s website: “Even before he became Sheriff in 1993, Joe Arpaio was one tough lawman. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1953, and as a Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, NV, police officer for almost five years, Arpaio went on to build a federal law enforcement career and a reputation for fighting crime and drug trafficking around the world.
“He began his career as a federal narcotics agent, establishing a stellar record in infiltrating drug organizations from Turkey to the Middle East to Mexico, Central, and South America to cities around the U.S. His expertise and success led him to top management positions around the world with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He concluded his remarkable 32-year federal career as head of the DEA for Arizona.
“With over four decades experience in law enforcement, Arpaio knows what the public wants, ‘The public is my boss,’ he says, ‘so I serve the public.’ He has served them well by establishing several unique programs.
“Arpaio has started another controversial program, the website WWW.MCSO.org, so that all those arrested (about 300 per day) are recorded on the Sheriff’s website as they are booked and processed into jail. Just under a million hits daily come into the website, making it one of the most visible law enforcement sites on the World Wide Web.
“In addition to these tough measures, the Sheriff has launched rehabilitative programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school under a Sheriff in an American jail, and ALPHA, an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism.”
Criminals should be punished for their crimes. But most jails coddle criminals for fear of lawsuits and out-of-control federal judges. Jails are not places of luxury, but the conditions in most jails would be considered luxurious by many citizens. Many poor people in this country don’t have air-conditioning, recreational facilities, and free cable TV. No wonder so many criminals offend again – in many cases their life in jail is better than life outside. And the jails provide them with free porn!
If all jails were Arpaio’s, there would be a lot less crime and fewer repeat offenders. Other sheriffs and prison wardens would do well to study Arpaio’s model, and start to get tough on criminals.
Dr. Tom Barrett has been an ordained minister for 30 years. He has written for local and national publications for most of his life, and has authored several non-fiction books. He has been interviewed on many TV and radio programs, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Tom is the editor and publisher of Conservative Truth, an email newsletter read by over fifty thousand weekly which focuses on moral and political issues from a Biblical viewpoint.