In all of our nations jails and prisons there are many rules and regulations that serve as attempts to curtail aggressive and insidious behavior by inmates. Jails usually have a standard issue “uniform” with little to no other options so that all the inmates look alike. This is an attempt to strip the identity from prisoners in a sense. The theory behind this is that if everyone looks alike, there would be no reason to fight each other. If you’ve ever seen the television program lock-up or know anything about prison, you know there are fights constantly taking place within its confines. Prison is a sentence. It is supposed to be the ultimate adult “time out”, along with attempts to correct past criminal behaviors of inmates.
Joe Arpaio takes it to a different level in the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix Arizona. You may have heard of this famous sheriff for his somewhat odd style of running the jail. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently taken issue with Mr. Arpaio’s style.
In the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, inmates eat surplus food twice daily. The jail has earned the moniker “tent city” because there is a section of the institution that houses inmates outside in tents. Imagine sleeping outside on a summer night in Phoenix Arizona. Arpaio also instituted chain gangs where inamtes are chained together in work seven hours a day, five to six days a week. The Sheriff has come under much scrutiny for these actions alone, but his latest problem with courts and human rights activists is due to something else; something else that Arpaio and the Maricopa County Jail might be best known for: pink underwear.
Inmates are given pink underwear and also pink handcuffs on some occasions. Arpaio seems to relish in the spotlight, believing himself to be somewhat of a criminal justice celebrity. There are plenty of people who support the Sheriff, but more that don’t. Joe is no stranger to controversy and has been on the wrong end of a long list of civil suits, bad press and allegations of misuse of funds, racial profiling, and abuse of power.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said earlier in March that the use of pink underwear is unexplained, and is punishment without legal justification. The court also noted that the use of the color pink was meant to strip prisoners’ masculinity.All things are dismissed as something to the tune of "poppycock" by Mr. Arpaio.
There are a few things here that are worth the time to ask questions about and form an opinion on.
1) Is the use of pink underwear, pink handcuffs, tents in 100+ degree Arizona weather, and two meals of less than desirable surplus food overkill for just a jail? These people are not even in a prison and a lot of them haven’t yet been convicted of the crime they are accused of.
2) Is there a better environment to fit this type of treatment? Would something like this work better in a maximum security prison?
3) There are many who have taken shots at Sheriff Joe Arpaio because of his unorthodox way of running the prison. Are they justified? Do the inmates have a right to complain?
I encourage all who are interested to do more research of Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Prison. They have been the site of televisions "Lock Up" program before. You might be able to find that episode somewhere. Take a look for yourself and maybe you could understand why so many people are not happy with Joe and his "tent city".
To the right is a Maricopa County Inmate in his tent and pink underwear.
Below is one of the famous tents of "tent city".