Mr. Arpaio has in the public eye and has appeared in the media from time to time in the last decade. To some, he is a no-nonsense law enforcement officer, but to others he’s a racist or accused of being too tough. So who is Joe Arpaio – a tough sheriff or an abuser of the judicial system?
Joseph M. Arpaio was born on June 14th, 1932 in Springfield, Massachusetts and whose family heritage is Italian American. His mother died giving birth to him and Joseph was raised by his father, a grocery store owner. He completed high school and worked with his father until he was 18, when he enlisted in the United States Army, serving from 1950 to 1954 in the Medical Detachment Division stationed in France and later transferred into the Military Police military occupation. After he was discharged under honorable conditions in 1954 he moved to Washington, DC and became a police officer. In 1957 he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada working as a law enforcement officer there, and after six months he was able to obtain a position as a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He served as a Special Agent for 25 years, stationed in places like Turkey and Mexico and was advanced to a leadership position of the Arizona DEA branch. In 1992,Joseph Arpaio campaigned for the office of Maricopa County Sheriff and won. He was re-elected in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 with a majority of support of the county’s voters. He has been married to Ava Arpaio since 1958 and currently has two children and four grandchildren. He has been featured on TV and has a website.
During his tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff, Arpaio has instituted or strengthened several of the following crime prevention programs:
– bicycle registration.
– block watches.
– Child identification and fingerprinting.
– Operation Identification for marking valuables.
– Operation Notification that identifies business owners to be notified during times of emergency.
– Project Lifeline that provides free cellular phones to domestic violence victims.
– S.T.A.R.S: Sheriffs Teaching Abuse Resistance to Students
– an annual summer camp for kids near Payson, Arizona.
Sheriff Arpaio is most famous for his Tent City, an extension of the jail system, that doesn’t coddle prisoners and enforces the concept that crime doesn’t pay and teaching prisoners self discipline as well as providing incentive to return to society as good citizens. Some of his techniques and the manner in which the tent city has been operated and prisoner conditions has been a controversial topic matter and Sheriff Arpaio has been the target of lawsuits and protests from political and social organization advocacy groups.
Tent City is an extension of the Maricopa County jail system and was first devised to save the county the expense of building a new jail due to overcrowded conditions, and according to Wikipedia it has saved Arizona taxpayers $70 million. Unfortunately much of that was saved has gone to funding lawsuits, of which amounts to 2,150, an amount larger than any of the major cities in America. Other prison and jail systems have used the tent city concept to house inmates during periods of overcrowding. In the Maricopa Tent City is located in a yard next to the permanent jail building and have toilets, showers, a dining area, and a day room for recreational activities and meetings. Sometimes the conditions in Tent City can be harsh with temperatures in the daytime reaching as high as 150°F. During the summer season, fans and plenty of water is used for the prisoners. Former Sheriff Office employees stated that when the Tent City was first set up, Sheriff Arpaio emptied an entire floor of one jail to put prisoners in the new facility. News media reported that in the summer of 2003, when outside temperatures reached 110°F, the inmates began complaining and Sheriff Arpaio was quoted as saying:
It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents, have to wear full body armor, and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths.
It was then that Sheriff Arpaio gave the order to issue pink underwear to the inmates of Tent City. During this period, advocacy groups and organizations protested and criticized Sheriff Arpaio and accused him of violating human and constitutional rights, including Erwin James, a journalist for The Guardian, who is currently on parole from a life sentence in Britain. The pink underwear action became world famous and Sheriff Arpaio started selling pink boxer shorts commercially with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office logo and the words Go Joe. The net funds go to the Sheriff’s Posse Association. Allegations of misuse of funds were brought forth, but Sheriff Arpaio refused to provide an audit of the funding account. Being a success, the pink underwear product included pink handcuffs, a means to promote his book, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff.
County jail prisoners in past American history instituted work teams that became known as chain gangs, which put inmates to work to pay back society for the cost of their incarceration. Sheriff Arpaio instituted a chain gang program in 1995, and in 1996 expanded the program to include volunteer female inmates. The female inmates worked the same schedule as the males – seven hours a day (0700-1400), six days per week. He also created a juvenile chain gang program consisting of volunteers from the juvenile detention center that afforded the inmates an opportunity to earn credits toward a high school diploma.
Sheriff Arpaio made the news in 2005 when he marched almost 700 maximum-security inmates for four blocks from the Towers Jail facility to the new Lower Buckeye Jail, wearing only their underwear and flip-flops to prevent inmates from concealing fake keys and other contraband.
Beginning in year 2000, the Maricopa County Sheriff website hosted Jail Cam, a 24-hour Internet webcast of images from cameras in the Madison Street Jail, which housed pretrial detainees.
The cameras showed arrestees being brought in handcuffed, fingerprinted, booked, and taken to holding cells; with the site receiving millions of hits per day. Twenty-four former detainees brought suit against the Sheriff’s office, arguing that their Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process have been violated. U.S. District Court Judge Earl H. Carroll held in favor of the former detainees, issuing an injunction ending the webcasts. …
In his dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Carlos Bea wrote:
… What the majority avoids – perhaps because of the all-too-predictable result – is to ask the question basic to any review questioning the validity of governmental action under a rational basis analysis: were the webcasts reasonably related to the purpose of deterring public behavior that could result in pretrial detention? The answer clearly is Yes. … Similarly unexamined is the Sheriff’s purpose of providing transparency of jail operations as a civic good. Sheriff Arpaio’s methods to achieve his purposes of public deterrence and governmental transparency may not suit the fine sensibilities of some group activists and jurists. But absent a violation of the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs – and I see none – such differences of opinion must be vindicated, if at all, in the ballot box, not in the courtroom.
Reinforcing Judge Bea’s dissension: the decision for the former inmates was not objective. Contrary to claim, the webcam operation of pretrial inmates clearly, as Judge Bea stated, shows that the Maricopa County law enforcement system adheres to the rights and treats its detainees in accordance to law and the standards of human rights – clearly shown on camera. In addition, it is hypocrisy to say it is wrong to install video webcams in jail systems when social services across the nation force juveniles who get into trouble with the law to visit prison and jail systems for the very same reason that the webcast system was introduced by Sheriff Arpaio. And, I agree with Judge Bea that it is up to the citizen voters of Maricopa County to decide whether Sheriff Arpaio is running his office efficiently and effective, as well as according to law. Apparently the crime rate statistics, success of his programs, and the approval of the voters of that county have clearly supported their local sheriff – they keep re-electing him. County voters have a say, and unless a law is broken or rights are not adhered to, the courts have no business telling how the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office how to conduct their business – based upon people, organizations and groups that, for the most part, don’t even live in that county. For example, an editorial in The New York Times that condemned the practices and programs concerning illegal immigrants, Coyotes, and the general criminal population that smuggles people and drugs across the southern border of the United States and provides false ID documentation that is a local, state and federal offense. Sheriff Arpaio is a role model for law enforcement agencies to imitate – in light of the fact that the federal executive branch doesn’t enforce immigration laws that the federal legislature put in place to protect American citizens and provide national security against subversive and terrorist individuals, groups and organizations that are dangerous to the welfare of the United States and its people.
Illegal Immigration Issues
In 2005, Arizona passed a state law making it a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail, to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border. Smuggling illegal immigrants was already a federal crime, but Arizona passed its law, effectively authorizing local police to enforce immigration law, out of frustration that the federal government had not done enough to control illegal border crossings. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew P. Thomas issued a legal opinion that persons being smuggled can be considered co-conspirators to the smuggling and can be charged under the same law. In a court challenge to this interpretation, the law’s sponsor said it was never intended to target the immigrants themselves, only the smugglers. A judge upheld Thomas’s opinion, saying there was no evidence that legislators “intended to exclude any prosecution for conspiracy to commit human smuggling.”Arpaio has instructed his sheriff’s deputies and members of his civilian posse to arrest illegal immigrants. Arpaio told the Washington Times, “My message is clear: if you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail…. I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail.”
As of August 2006, there had been 263 arrests and 121 convictions of smugglers under the state law, often known as the Coyote law. No court had convicted a smuggled person as a co-conspirator by that time.In April 2008, an editorial in The New York Times denounced a proposed expansion of the local enforcement of immigration law to all of Arizona, offering immigration sweeps by the Maricopa County posse as an example of abuse of the program.
On March 3, 2009, the United States Department of Justice “notified Arpaio of the investigation in a letter saying his enforcement methods may unfairly target Hispanics and Spanish-speaking people.”  Arpaio, denying any wrongdoing and welcoming the investigation, says he’ll cooperate fully.On April 20, 2009, the East Valley Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for local news reporting for its five part series on Arpaio’s efforts against illegal immigration. The Tribune detailed the decline in law enforcement services that has arisen due to the resources that Arpaio has shifted to immigration matters.
In light of the situation regarding illegal immigrants (aliens) nationwide, Sheriff Arpaio is a refreshing example of what other law enforcement entities should be emulating. If perpetrators of immigration crimes and unlawful false documentation and identification activities are a majority when it comes to illegal immigrants, the racial profiling charges are not only moot, but ridiculous. Here is an example of what kind of judiciary system that Sheriff Arpaio and other law enforcement officers must deal with in regards to criminals:
James Saville was arrested in July 1999 for allegedly conspiring to murder Joe Arpaio with a pipe bomb. Saville had just completed an 18-month sentence for arson for attempting to blow up his high school by filling it with gas from 37 opened bunsen burners. While in prison, Saville had drawn crude bomb plans and expressed to ajailhouse snitch the desire to kill the prosecutor and judge in his arson case. He was arrested the day after his release while assembling a bomb in the presence of an undercover sheriff’s deputy. A jury decided that undercover officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had entrapped Saville by turning his assassination plans toward Sheriff Arpaio, and found Saville not guilty. [Wikipedia]
In November 2007 a group called Arizonans for the U.S. Constitution and Recall of Joe Arpaio filed the paperwork to begin an effort to recall Arpaio and County Prosecutor Andrew P. Thomas from office for allegedly disobeying and violating the United States Constitution and abuse of power. Their petition to get a recall question for the two officials onto the next general election ballot failed when the group was unable to collect the more than 200,000 registered voter signatures required. In a survey taken by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication while the petition was in circulation, nearly three out of four respondents opposed the recall, and 65 percent of the respondents held a positive opinion of Arpaio.
Lawsuits and critical commentary and accusations from advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, et cetera continues. But the record of Sheriff Arpaio’s programs and their results stands against the bias and unfounded criticisms:
In her book on prison policy The Use of Force by Detention Officers, Arizona State University criminal justice professor Marie L. Griffin reported on a 1998 study commissioned by Arpaio to examine recidivism rates based on conditions of confinement. Comparing recidivism rates under Arpaio to those under his predecessor, the study found “there was no significant difference in recidivism observed between those offenders released in 1989-1990 and those released in 1994-1995.”However, a study by the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno of recidivism rates across the United States showed that Arizona has the nation’s lowest rate of recidivism, at only 24.5 percent, while states with higher rates were California (53.4 percent), Alaska (66 percent), and Utah (64 percent). One Nevada district attorney said the states with higher recidivism rates “may have pleasant prisons“.
However, some lawsuits have provided negative public opinion to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, not to mention the funding cost of defense against allegations and lawsuits, et cetera. Maricopa Country, due to lawsuits by family members judged in court concerning death or injury of inmates have cost the county more than $43 million during Sheriff Arpaio’s tenure as Sheriff of Maricopa County.
Probably the most controversial and perceivably condemning incidents are the following events described in an Wikipedia entry that contains the disclaimer:
Charles AgsterIn August 2001, Charles Agster, a 33-year-old mentally handicapped man, died in the county jail three days after being forced by sheriff’s officers into a restraint chair used for controlling combative arrestees. Agster’s parents had been taking him to a psychiatric hospital because he was exhibiting paranoia, then called police when he refused to leave a convenience store where they had stopped enroute. Officers took Agster to the Madison Street jail, placed a “spit hood” over his face and strapped him to the chair, where he had an apparent seizure and lost consciousness. He was declared brain dead three days later. A medical examiner later concluded that Agster died of complications of methamphetamine intoxication. In a subsequent lawsuit, an attorney for the sheriff’s office described the amount of methamphetamine in Agster’s system as 17 times the known lethal dose. The lawsuit resulted in a $9 million jury verdict against the county, the sheriff’s office, andCorrectional Health Services.
Richard PostRichard Post was a paraplegic inmate arrested in 1996 for possession of marijuana and criminal trespass. Post was placed in a restraint chair by guards and his neck was broken in the process. The event, caught on video, shows guards smiling and laughing while Post is being injured. Because of his injuries, Post has lost much of the use of his arms. Post settled his claims against the Sheriff’s office for $800,000.
Jeremy FlandersIn 1996, Jeremy Flanders was attacked by inmates at Tent City who used rebar tent stakes, which were not concreted into the ground. Although these stakes had been used as weapons in a previous riot at the facility, the Sheriff’s office chose not to secure them properly. During the trial, the plaintiff “presented evidence that, among other things, the Sheriff and his deputies had actual knowledge that prisoners used rebar tent stakes and tent poles as weapons and did nothing to prevent it.” Furthermore, “the Sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence.” After the attack: “another inmate entered the tent and found Flanders unconscious, gasping for air, and spewing blood out of his mouth, nose and ears. Flanders had been bloodied and beaten so badly that the other inmate initially did not recognize Flanders.” Flanders suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the attack. On appeal, Flanders was awarded $635,532, of which Arpaio was personally responsible for thirty-five percent.
Scott NorbergOne major controversy includes the 1996 death of inmate Scott Norberg, a former Brigham Young University football wide receiver, who died while in custody of the Sheriff’s office. Norberg was arrested for assaulting a police officer in Mesa, Arizona, after neighbors in a residential area had reported a delirious man walking in their neighborhood. Arpaio’s office repeatedly claimed Norberg was also high on methamphetamine, but a blood toxicology performed post-mortem was inconclusive. According to a toxological report, Norberg did have methamphetamine in his urine, though “there would be no direct effect caused by the methamphetamine on Norberg’s behavior at the time of the incident”. During his internment, evidence suggests detention officers shocked Norberg several times with a stun-gun. According to an investigation by Amnesty International, Norberg was already handcuffed and face down when officers dragged him from his cell and placed him in a restraint chair with a towel covering his face. After Norberg’s corpse was discovered, detention officers accused Norberg of attacking them as they were trying to restrain him. The cause of his death, according to the Maricopa County medical examiner, was due to “positional asphyxia“. Sheriff Arpaio investigated and subsequently cleared detention officers of any criminal wrongdoing. Norberg’s parents filed a lawsuit against Arpaio and his office. The lawsuit was settled for $8.25 million (USD).
In this case, despite a ruling that the law enforcement officers were judged not to have done anything wrongful, a separate lawsuit filed by the parents cost the taxpayers a large amount of money. It is unlawful to attack an officer of the law, and if harm due to accidental circumstances occurs – who is really at fault. In a liberal-sociocrat judiciary and the way our judicial system operates, wrongful doing committed by a criminal or suspect is ignored and law enforcement officers receive the brunt end of revengeful “justice”.
Brian CrenshawBrian Crenshaw was a legally blind and mentally disabled inmate who suffered fatal injuries while being held in Maricopa County Jail for shoplifting. The injuries that led to his death were initially blamed on a fall from his bunk but were later discovered to have been the result of a brutal beating by jail guards on March 7, 2003. A lawsuit filed in the Maricopa County Superior Court of Arizona by the lawyer for Crenshaw’s family stated:An external examination report of the Maricopa County Medical Examiners Office concluded that Brian’s death was caused by “complications of blunt force trauma due to a fall.” This conclusion was reached largely on the [Maricopa County Sheriffs Office]’s relation of their “history” of Brian’s injuries to the Medical Examiner’s Office; a history that included the MCSO’s implausable story that all of Brian’s injuries were caused by a fall from his cell bed. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner conducted no autopsy; nor was the Maricopa County Medical Examiner informed by MCSO or [the Correctional Health Services] about Brian’s beating on March 7, 2003 and/or related events. An independent autopsy report later narrowed the cause of Brian’s death to peritonitis and sepsis secondary to the duodenal perforation. A fall from Brian’s 4-foot, 2 inch bunk could not have simultaneously caused a broken neck, broken toes, and a duodenal perforation. The lawsuit against Arpaio and his office resulted in an award of $2 million. As in the Scott Norberg case, it was alleged that Arpaio’s office destroyed evidence in the case. In the Crenshaw case, the attorney who represented the case before a jury alleged digital video evidence was destroyed.
Ambria Renee Spencer In 2006, inmate Ambrett Spencer, who was incarcerated for drunk driving and was nine months pregnant with a healthy girl, complained of severe stomach pains and asked for medical attention. The infirmary nurse, who had no prenatal training, believed the pain was not an emergency. It was two hours before an ambulance was called for Spencer, who in the meantime had passed out from severely low blood pressure and lost so much color that the EMT who arrived at the scene said he knew she was “not getting enough blood to [her] organs and skin.” At the hospital—four hours after first reporting pain—Spencer gave birth to a dead daughter, Ambria Renee. It was determined that Spencer’s pain had been caused by placental abruption, internal bleeding resulting in loss of blood to the baby, which babies can usually survive if the mother is taken to the hospital and labor is quickly induced. Ambrett Spencer has filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County, which as of November 2008 has not yet gone to trial. The county claims that the ambulance service is at fault for not transporting Spencer to the hospital fast enough.
Other female inmates have had miscarriages while incarcerated in Arpaio’s jail and have reported physical abuse or neglect which they believe contributed to the loss of their pregnancies. 
Jose Rodriguez On March 26, 1996, Jose Rodriquez, 39, died in a pool of his own vomit on a jail floor. His cries for help went ignored by Arpaio’s jail employees. Rodriquez’s dehydration, fever and twitching ultimately led to his death, even while inmates shouted for help.
Phillip Wilson In 2003, Phillip Wilson was serving two months in Tent City for a nonviolent offense. Wilson was attacked by the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang and bludgeoned into a coma. He never recovered.
Deborah Braillard Deborah Braillard, 46, was documented as a diabetic in the jail’s health records. Her cellmates say a nurse did not give Braillard insulin, and then detention officers ignored her when she went into diabetic shock. Braillard died on January 23, 2005, ultimately from lack of insulin.
Clint Yarbrough In December 2005, Clint Yarbrough suffocated in a jail restraint chair. On April 18, 2007, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved an undisclosed settlement payout to Yarbrough’s family in excess of $1 million.
Thomas Bruce Cooley Months before Thomas Bruce Cooley, 44, was found hanging by the bed sheets in his jail cell, a federal inspector had warned Arpaio that the jail psych ward was a suicide waiting to happen. A 1996 Department of Justice report specifically cautioned that inmates could use “overhanging structures” to hang themselves. Three more inmates died in the same way as Thomas Cooley while in Arpaio’s custody: Kevin Holschlag, Michael Sanderson, and Juan Vasquez.
Arrest of Phoenix New Times ExecutivesIn October 2007, Arpaio’s deputies arrested Village Voice Media executives and Phoenix New Times editors Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin on charges of revealing grand jury secrets. In July 2004, the New Times had published Arpaio’s home address in the context of a story about his real estate dealings, which the county attorney’s office is investigating as a possible crime under Arizona state law. A special prosecutor served Village Voice Media with a subpoena ordering it to produce “all documents” related to the original real estate article, as well as “all Internet web site traffic information” to a number of articles that mentioned Arpaio. The prosecutor further ordered Village Voice Media to produce the IP addresses of all visitors to the Phoenix New Times website since January 1, 2004, as well as what websites those readers had been to prior to visiting. As an act of “civil disobedience,” Lacey and Larkin published the contents of the subpoena on or around October 18, which resulted in their arrests the same day. On the following day, the county attorney dropped the case after declining to pursue charges against the two. The Attorney General’s office has since been ordered to appear before Judge Ana Baca due to missing documentation – including the original grand jury subpoenas – in the case file for the investigation of the New Times publication.On November 28, 2007, Judge Baca ruled that the subpoenas in this case were not validly issued. The special prosecutor filed the grand jury subpoenas without the consent of the grand jury. Baca’s justification was a statute that had been clarified by case law and by subsequent legislation to bar such subpoena authority, unless certain reporting requirements are met. The prosecutor had not met those reporting requirements. In April, 2008, the New Times editors filed suit against Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, alleging negligence, conspiracy and racketeering, and State and U.S. constitutional violations of free speech rights, false imprisonment, retaliation by law enforcement and abuse of process.
While it appears that Maricopa County requires a reformation of their jail guards and their conduct, some of the above entries are questionable in terms of objective reporting, as noted by the Wikipedia staff. Advocacy groups and individuals have targeted the Maricopa County jail system.
In the 2008 election, Sheriff Arpaio won votes of 55% Republican and his Democratic opponent received 44.2%. He received higher vote margins in preceding elections. It appears that the media and some of the possible events of misconduct by the jail staff, as well as possible coverups concerning the county medical examiner can justify positions against the actions/conduct of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
References and Research
Another Plot Against Tough Sheriff, With a Twist, New York Times, 05/16/2002
Amnesty International Report: Ill-Treatment of Inmates in Maricopa County Jails, August 1st 1997
Phoenix Mayor Gordon Calls for FBI Investigation of Arpaio, The Arizona Republic, April 13th 2008
Maricopa County Voters Support Thomas, Arpaio Over Recall Effort, Cronkite News Service, November 20th 2007
Mauro v. Arpaio, FindLaw, August 17th 1999
Appeal From the Superior Court in Maricopa County, Cause No. CV 97-008668, Honorable Jeffrey S. Cates, Judge.
The Sheriff Who Issues Pink Underwear, People’s Weekly World.
March in Underwear Calls Attention to New Jails, Katie McDevitt, East Valley Tribune, April 16th 2005.
Jailhouse Webcams: Courts Aren’t Seeing Their Way Clear, USA Today, August 9th 2004
Illegals in Jail Ordered to Register for Draft, Deseret News, January 16th 2004.
Arizona County Uses New Law to Look for Illegal Immigrants, The New York Times, October 10th 2007.
Arizona Sheriff Uses Posse, New Law to Jail Illegals, The Washington Times, May 11th 2006.
The Plot To Assassinate Arpaio, Phoenix New Times News, October 20th 2007.
Judge Removed from Racial Profiling Case Against Sheriff, Phoenix Metro, July 17th 2009.
Sheriff Arpaio Duels County Attorney Andy Thomas, Free Republic, July 16th 2009.
Unhinged in Arizona: Open-Borders Mob, led by public official, ravages Joe Arpaio Effigy, Free Republic, July 16th 2009.
Profile of Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, The New Yorker, July 20th 2009 [for full text, registration is required]