Bagels and Locks

Complaints about tainted food and inmate abuse pour forth in wake of Tent City riot

"Now isn't it sad that the inmates would protect me?"
She says she approached a female sergeant about the incident and was told: "'You can't trust your other officers. They will stab you in the back quicker than the other inmates.' Pretty sad, isn't it?" Durrer says.

The afternoon of the Tent City riot, Durrer says four detention officers came running into an office in her area of Madison Street Jail. "Man, we're going to kick some ass tonight. We're going to beat the shit out of some inmates," the men were saying, according to Durrer.

"I told my partner . . . I don't want them coming in here and disrupting these men. I don't want these inmates going crazy because of these four idiots. You tell them not to come in here, and when I get in there, you close the slider so the inmates don't have to hear them."

The inmates were curious about what was happening, but Durrer told them to calm down so no one would come in and beat them.

"There are so many officers who are idiots, and they lie," Durrer says, claiming that Arpaio is unaware of most of what happens in his jails and the extent of detention-officer malfeasance.

"They cover it up. That's why I was fired. I went to my sergeant and told him how this white officer had called the other one a nigger. And he didn't believe me. I told him everything that happened and he didn't believe me. I told him the truth and he didn't want to hear it because they were his buddies."

Durrer also claims that she suffered sexual harassment at the hands of her fellow officers, who made inappropriate and belittling suggestions to her on the job.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Detective Lew Sorci says Durrer was released while under her initial, probationary hiring period because her "performance was not meeting performance standards." Sorci acknowledges that Durrer and her husband raised questions of inappropriate behavior by her co-workers, and were informed how they could register her complaints and appeal her dismissal.

Meanwhile, Durrer tells New Times that for a week prior to the November 17 riot, detention officers were prepared for a disturbance they expected to occur.

"Everybody said that it was coming," Durrer says. "And there's supposed to be one at Madison coming."

She's asked who had told her this.
"Other officers," she replies.
How do they know?
"They know."

An investigation by the federal Department of Justice found evidence that inmates in Arpaio's jails were being physically abused and were being denied necessary medical care. U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano has announced that the recent riots will be included in that ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, people who have spent time in Arpaio's jails tell New Times that conditions are generally Third World.

Fred Vazquez was mentioned in a New Times story about nonwhites who were beginning to join the patriot movement ("Affirmative Reactionaries," March 28). Recently, when Vazquez mouthed off to a judge who wanted to know when he was going to pay for an outstanding speeding ticket, Vazquez was ordered to spend 16 days in Tent City.

During his short stay, Vazquez was put to work in Tent City's kitchen. He called New Times after he was sprung to say that Sheriff Joe has a vermin problem.

"We'd serve the inmates pancakes that mice had chewed. Bread that mice had been in. The mice had chewed holes in the bread. Their feces were all over it. Cockroaches were baked into the bread. We tried to throw away what he could, but a lot of it was still getting out to the inmates."

Vazquez says cockroaches would run in and out of hollow serving trays while the food was being put on them.

"The other day we were trying to put bagels onto plates, and it's bad enough that we have to keep roaches off of the outside, but there's mice trying to get into the bag of bagels from the bottom."

And as for what was on the menu: "For dinner you'd get a side order of salsa, a boiled potato and another side order of ground sardines in tomato sauce and two pieces of bread. That was on Saturday. On Friday, the day before, we had salsa, the boiled potato sitting on some kind of gray gravy, and two pieces of bread."

And lunch? "One slice of cheese, one cold-cut slice--and sometimes it's not even a whole slice--a piece of bread and maybe some raisins."

Other inmates have written to New Times telling of inadequate portions and rancid food. One correspondent complained that three times in one week dinner had consisted of a slice of bread covered in barbecue sauce.

Vazquez says the inmates working in the kitchen received much better food than what they served to the general population. "We ate this stuff every day--burritos, fried chicken, onion rings, ice cream," Vazquez says. "But that isn't what the staff put out for the inmates. A jail employee made sure the good food stayed in the kitchen and was thrown out if we didn't eat it."

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