PHOENIX, February 2011 – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a popular official figure in Arizona and with his unique approach with the city taint jails attracts interest of the international media and international human rights organization like Amnesty International.
A podcast with Sheriff Joe Arpaio recorded during the visit of Hubert Humphrey Fellows to his office in February 2011.
Arpaio was reelected for a sixth term as a Maricopa County Sheriff on November 7, 2012, with 53% of the vote, as reported by online edition of Los Angeles Times.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s background is in military and in Drug Enforcement Agency. He retired at the head of DEA’s Arizona office after 32 years of service in the Agency Bureau of Narcotics.
He proudly said he was elected Sheriff for 18 years and he is a Chief law- enforcement officer for Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe has unique approach to the prison system in the county introducing the tents city jails and chain gangs work.
Maybe, his favorite color is not the pink one, but he introduced the pink underwear for all inmates in the jails in Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe explanation to the pink underwear is that he “wants to stop the smuggling of the underwear out of the jails”.
Sheriff Joe introduced the tent jails in 1993 and as he admits he spent “two times there” to see whether he can manage to pass the night. The inmates in the tent city -jails don’t have the right to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes or watch TV.
Sheriff Joe expects inmates to watch only the Weather Channel or Donald Duck. The inmates sleep outside under the tents and they don’t have a right to heather or air condition. The budget comes from the county, but Sheriff Joe decides where the money will go. The inmates get two meals per day, public defenders and legal services.
“I am the one that decides what to feed them, whether to put them in the pink underwear, whether to feed them 15 cents for food per day, I took away their coffee, their movie, their television, took away their coffee, their salt, put them in the tents”, explains Sheriff Joe.
With the statements like this, Sheriff Joe attracts media attention, although various institutions and organizations try to investigate his work and open the file of human right violations in the jails he runs. Amnesty International investigates his work since 1997 and he faces complaints from other human rights organizations for years. His office work is under investigation of the Justice Department for racial profiling and unconstitutional searches and seizures.
“If the person doesn’t speak English, doesn’t have any identification, that gives you an idea, they may be here illegally and we are investigate them, we don’t just stop someone what they look like”, argues Sheriff Joe to the alleged information on racial profiling.
When his office has information about some illegal worker at the store or other work place they first do the investigation, search the warrant and after that arrested the person because “they are 100% here illegal”.
He is proud that his office investigated, arrested or investigated in jail 45.000 people for illegal immigration. “I am doing this for three year and I don’t need SB1070”, explains Sheriff Joe. They already enforce the two state laws on immigration and the members of Sheriff’s patrol have the “authority to act as a Federal immigration”.
African-American population is not the target of the last year introduced law on immigration in Arizona. “It is more Hispanic issue, it is not really black issue”, admits Sheriff Arpaio.
According to Sheriff Arpaio, his efforts to “crack down the illegal immigration” decrease his popularity among the legal Latino community. “I am not a politician to take care for Hispanic votes”, underlines Sheriff Joe.
Despite the fact the international organizations question his method and way of running the jails, he allows media visit to the tents city jails.
“Why do I have to hide something? Try to get inside in the other state prisons you will not get to the reception”, replies Sheriff Joe to the question on the condition for inmates at jails.
He explains the programs he introduced in the jails, like parenting and different support groups for the inmates. The usual inmates to the city tent jails are people caught to drive without license or for drinking and driving.