Prisons

Arizona's Sheriff Joe Ordered, Again, to Improve His Abusive Jails

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Maricopa County Jail
crume / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Maricopa County, Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio loves grandstanding—and much of his routine is made for TV. His chain gangs wear black and white striped uniforms, just like in old movies, his prisoners are issued pink underwear "sure to offend the tender male ego" as his office boasts, and his world famous "tent city" jail is available for tours (adults only, no more than five per group, please). But his office has also been guilty of a litany of shenanigans, including stealing documents from a defense attorney, arresting critical journalists, spying on political opponents—and maintaining such lousy jail conditions that they violate inmates' rights.

In fact, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake has yet again, in an ongoing saga, told Sheriff Joe to offer decent medical care to the prisoners in his care.

Defendants now have at least one medical provider and additional mental health staff assigned to the Jail's intake center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But they have not shown they have resolved systemic deficiencies in providing pretrial detainees timely face-to-face assessment by medical and mental health providers for serious acute or chronic complex conditions.

Judge Wake noted that county officials have made some improvements since the last time he noted that they weren't complying with his order to improve conditions, but that "some of the new practices were begun only a few days before" they asked to be released from court superviion.

Note that the original judgment against the county dates to 1995, the jails lost their national accreditation because of conditions in 2008, it's now 2014, and Sheriff Joe and company are still dragging their heels over a court order to improve the treatment of inmates.

The ACLU of Arizona has more here.

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  1. He has to control the brown hordes! There is no one standing between the brown hordes and the USA, except for Sheriff Joe and me!

    1. Sheriff Joe is the Moses of anti-immigration and the Hallelujah of old white people in dusty hot places only a lizard should ever live (some intelligent people, however, are trapped in Phoenix and Arizona).

  2. the jails lost their national accreditation because of conditions in 2008, it

    WTF does that even mean? The jails diplomas are worthless? It doesn’t count towards your college credits? Why and how exactly would a jail be accredited?

    1. You have to take a bunch of remedial courses in prison, stuff like shanking 101, intro to pruno, etc.

      1. Once, while visiting a jail, I saw a bunch of inmates attending some so-called “Life Skills” class.

        While waiting for my client, I asked the guard, “What kind of stuff do they learn in there?”

        “I don’t know,” he replied. “Probably how to light a crack pipe and not burn their fingers.”

    2. I guess if you’re sentenced to so many years in prison and that’s the prison you’re “attending,” those years don’t count towards your sentence?

    3. Oh goddammit, I was too late

  3. “But they have not shown they have resolved systemic deficiencies in providing pretrial detainees timely face-to-face assessment by medical and mental health providers for serious acute or chronic complex conditions.” Is that for court proceeding purposes? It seems that should be the courts responsibility.

    1. No, its the responsibility of the jail to provide adequate medical care to all inmates. The reason for the distinction between pre and post trial is because( I think/hope) Maricopa County houses pre trial inmates separately from convicted inmates. Given the chain gangs and tent city etc, they should have to.

      1. Jails doing mental health screenings? Good luck with that.

      2. Health care for inmates is an interesting question. Certainly pre-trial inmates should be considered innocent until proven guilty, which implies a much higher standard of health care. On the other end you have life wirhout parole, and I can understand reluctance to provide anything more than dental care, bandages, fixing broken legs, etc — no heart transplants or cancer cures. But in between — if a burglar has a 5 year sentence and could get chemotherapy under almost all conditions outside, is it fair to not treat it inside? On the other hand, don’t go to jail so you can get free gender reassignment surgery.

        I’ve never quite figured that one out. If you’re worried about dying from cancer in jail, don’t do the crime. But if I had to pay for criminal care with direct donations, I probably would donate to jails which provided more than the most basic health care.

        1. which implies a much higher standard of health care. On the other end you have life wirhout parole, and I can understand reluctance to provide anything more than dental care, bandages, fixing broken legs, etc — no heart transplants or cancer cures.

          Fuck that. If, for whatever reason, you lock somebody up and deprive them of any ability to care for themselves, then their health and well being are your fucking responsibility. Reluctance be damned.

          1. Sure, up to a point. If they couldn’t get chemo or gender surgery before they went to jail, why should they get it after conviction?

            1. Medicare G.

          2. If, for whatever reason, you lock somebody up and deprive them of any ability to care for themselves, then their health and well being are your fucking responsibility.

            Go full-bore statist or not at all amiright?

            Nothing beats using taxpayer dollars to give inmates medical care that they couldn’t afford living on the streets.

            /sarcasm

            1. First, most inmates would not be “living on the streets”. Probably many of them would be covered under health care plans, or would be able to seek treatment on their own. But that’s outside of the point. When you lock somebody up you take away that ability for them to care for themselves. If the government wants to lock people up then they should give them a standard of medical care that errs on the side of too much.

              Locking people up should be expensive. Really expensive. Because it’s a big fucking deal to take somebody and deprive them of their freedom for years, if not their entire life.

    1. Why are they ticketing girl cars?… WAR ON WIMINZ!

      1. Well, we can’t have them operating all those Rabbits at unsafe speeds, now can we?

  4. Note that the original judgment against the county dates to 1995, the jails lost their national accreditation because of conditions…

    Man, that sucks. How is a former inmate to have any credibility after his alma mater loses its accreditation?

  5. Arrest Joe, put him IN his own prisons, then watch conditions improve.

  6. Of course, Joe is a prennial darling of the Tea Party. But don’t anyone suggest their small government rhetoric is in anyways insincere.

    1. That fact alone tells you all you need to know with where the Tea Party lost its original anti-bailout/anti-stimulus/anti-tax roots and veered into the crotchety, your-grandparents’-conservatism of the Republican party.

      Stubborn, imperious, arrogant, self-righteous, and uncompromising about rules for the sake of rules, Sheriff Joe is great — because he symbolizes everything that’s wrong with today’s cops.

    2. But don’t anyone suggest their small government rhetoric is in anyways insincere.

      Oh, you can suggest that here all you want and it will be ignored because the choir’s already been preached to brutha.

      I’ll speak for myself, tho, and state that the Tea Party began on solid principles and ended up sucking Ted Cruz’s authoritarian dick.

    3. Joe is a prennial darling of the Tea Party.

      Admittedly I’m not a part of any of the various tea party groups, but I’ve never seen Joe Arpaio associated with any of the ones that get coverage on the news. There’s plenty of real-life examples of you favorite bogeymen being hypocrites – you really don’t need to invent any.

  7. Then again, I’d be tempted to make Joe head of the Bureau of Prisons, if for no other reason than watching the ACLU heads explode.

    1. The ACLU is a fantastic organization you klutz.

      1. The ACLU is an unprincipled piece of shit that accidentally gets a few issues very right, but often for entirely unlibertarian reasons. Their position on campaign finance laws alone should be plenty enough to put any libertarian off their lunch, without mentioning anything about their support for protected classes and compulsory health insurance.

  8. Joe should contract with the Phoenix VA for med care.

  9. I sometimes think we’d be better off if offenders were given shorter sentences in much harsher conditions – and the money that would have been paid to lock them up longer was spent on education and rehab instead of incarceration.

    There are three reasons for jails: 1) To punish the wrong doer, 2) To keep the dangerous people out of society 3) To rehabilitate

    In the case of non-violent offenses, the second reason doesn’t apply. The third is arguably done much better on the OUTSIDE instead of inside a jail. The first reason – to punish – is a combination of two factors – length of incarceration and harshness of conditions. It’s no secret that some jails/prisons are so comfortable that crimes have been committed with the express intent of being captured and sentenced. I recall a case of two vagrants in the north who decided that, with the onset of winter, they’d like to spend the next 4-5 months in jail. So they mugged a guy. But they went too far and killed him instead. Now if a prison/jail is so comfortable that people are committing crimes to get IN to the jail, we know that conditions are not harsh enough.

  10. … cont…
    I don’t know of anyone who commits a crime with the intent of getting INTO Arpaio’s jail – so he’s doing that part right, and other jails should consider following his lead. But while someone is in the custody of the state, the state bears strict liability for their welfare – that is, if they have a medical condition, the state must either treat the individual, or release them.

    Consider someone who commits a theft. Are they punished more by two years at Club Fed? Or six months in hell? The former costs the taxpayer at least four times as much and its effect on recidivism is highly suspect. Spending the same amount of money – and time – to send the prisoner to hell for six months, followed by 18 months of rehab and training might be a greater benefit to society. More, the training should not be at taxpayer expense. Let the rehabilitated prisoners pay back the taxpayers for their education “loan”. Punish the guilty. Save time. Save money. Rehabilitate prisoners. Create productive citizens. What’s not to like?

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