There is a region near our southwest border … that the wisest traficantes de la droga tend to avoid.
Because Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is there—and he’s bound and determined by oath to uphold the law.
Maricopa County is the fourth most populated county in the nation (3,768,123 U.S. citizens), with Phoenix as its county seat. In 1992, the good citizens of Maricopa County saw fit to elect an Army veteran and career federal drug-enforcement agent as their sheriff, on the promise that he would treat those convicted of crimes like criminals, rather than a social-welfare constituency. Since then, Sheriff Arpaio has been re-elected every time he faced the voters, because he and his 3,000 employees are keeping that promise.
Here is a sample of justice served at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)—a good model for the rest of the nation.
Criminals in Maricopa County Jail can no longer smoke or drink coffee. “This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton,” Sheriff Joe informed his indignant inmates. “If you don’t like it, don’t come back.” The Sheriff also discontinued inmate subscriptions for pornography. He revised the jail menu offerings, reducing the cost of meals to 40 cents per serving—and requires that the inmates pay for them. When they complained that he feeds his police dogs better, Sheriff Arpaio responded with characteristic compassion: “The dogs never committed a crime and they are working for a living.”
The jailhouse weight rooms are gone, too, but there’s plenty of exercise to be had on one of Sheriff Joe’s chain gangs. These include chain gangs for women, so Arpaio can’t be called a chauvinist or sued for discrimination. “Crime knows no gender,” he says, “and neither should punishment.” MCSO chain gangs clean streets, remove graffiti and bury the indigent.
He also started juvenile chain gangs for youthful gang bangers and launched rehab programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school run by a Sheriff in an American jail, and “ALPHA,” an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism—the rate of reconvictions.
The Sheriff disconnected the MCSO jail’s cable TVs until criminal lawyers pointed out that he might be in violation of a federal-court order. So he hooked the cable up again, but piped in only the Disney and Weather channels. Asked by a reporter why he chose the Weather Channel, he replied, “So they will know how hot it’s gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”
Sheriff Arpaio also used canteen funds to purchase former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s history lecture series on DVD, which he shows in the jail. Asked by a reporter if he provided equal time to Democrats, Sheriff Arpaio said, “Some might say these guys already got enough of those ideas.”
Additionally, on Friday nights, inmates are treated to classic “G”-rated movies, and recently, the Sheriff launched KJOE radio, an in-house broadcast station, which plays classical and patriotic music, as well as educational programs.
Sheriff Joe has even posted a “Hall of Shame” Web page dedicated to deadbeat parents, which lists photos and descriptions of parents who owe back child support, etc.
But Arpaio is probably best known by convicts, and most loathed by them, for establishing a “tent-city jail.” When he first took office, non-violent offenders were routinely released in order to alleviate prison overcrowding, but the new Sheriff put a stop to that, which swelled the ranks of inmates. On behalf of taxpayers, Arpaio opened a tent-city jail in order to avoid building an expensive jail annex.
The tent city, surrounded by razor wire, houses thousands of inmates, most of whom get a bit uncomfortable in the 115-degree summer heat. Arpaio gave the inmates permission to dress down to their boxer shorts—shorts which, like socks and towels, are dyed pink so as not to be stolen. Of course, some of the longer-term inmates complained, but Sheriff Arpaio responded, “It’s 120 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!”
In 2005, responding to limited federal enforcement resources to secure our borders, Arizona passed a law making it a felony (punishable by up to two years in prison) to smuggle anyone across the border. In addition, the Maricopa County Attorney issued a legal opinion that anyone being smuggled can be charged under the same law as a co-conspirator. (At last count, 14 other states are revising state legislation and stepping up their prosecution of illegal aliens.)
Consequently, Sheriff Arpaio issued instructions to his deputies and civilian posse to round up illegal aliens. “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. I’m going to put them on chain gangs, in tents and feed them bologna sandwiches.”
The Sheriff also gives his inmates, who do not speak English, a two-week basic language course built around American history. He explains, “These inmates happen to be incarcerated in the United States of America. In Maricopa County where I run the jails, we speak English.” At the end of the course, they are required to sing “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Lately, Sheriff Arpaio’s detractors have been turning up the heat on him.
Last week, Arpaio set up a hotline that allows citizens to report suspected illegal aliens to the sheriff’s office. Predictably, Latino leaders voiced their displeasure: “What right does he have,” inquired Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante, “to investigate people based on the color of their skin, or their accent or the way they look?” Added Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, “We feel the chances of being racially profiled just went up dramatically.”
Of course, Arpaio is opening investigations only on the basis of a suspected felony violation, not race or ethnicity. “There’s nothing unconstitutional about putting up a hotline,” Arpaio said, pointing out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have similar hotlines.
There are other legal challenges to the Sheriff’s “unorthodox” methods for dealing with criminals—challenges that emanate from the Left’s preference to view criminals as victims. Not one to shy away from a fight, Arpaio has said he will go “all the way to the Supreme Court” to fight those challenges. “I’m going to keep locking them up,” he says.
“Justice,” in the words of James Madison, “is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” Thank God that there are still men among us like Joe Arpaio—those still willing to dispense justice and defend civil society.
(Sheriff Arpaio and his wife of 48 years, Ava, have two children and four grandchildren—all residents of Phoenix. Earlier this year, he accepted an appointment as honorary state chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Through it all, Sheriff Arpaio has retained his sense of humor. In May, after Hollywonk Paris Hilton’s conviction, he contacted Los Angeles authorities and asked if they would like to transfer her to Maricopa County jail to serve out her sentence. They “respectfully declined,” he notes.)
Patriot Post, 7/27/07