109 Degrees of Incarceration

County inmate Lance Hawthorne died in a cell whose vent had been closed as a form of punishment

Keen had apparently not been told that the air vent to Hawthorne's cell had been closed.

Detective Luna visited the jail cell to measure its temperature, but five hours had passed since Hawthorne and Smith had been taken out of it and the cell door was open, Luna wrote. Even so, a thermometer placed on Smith's bunk measured 94 degrees. What the room measured with the cell door closed and the two men in their bunks, Luna could apparently not estimate.

Wrote Luna: "Smith said that it gets hotter if the trap door to the cell is closed. In this case the trap door was closed ever since Hawthorne was transferred in. I asked Smith if the trap door is normally kept closed, he said that it is usually kept open but the Officers close it as a form of discipline."

Sheriff Arpaio takes advantage of a misconception common among the public: that jail and prison are synonymous. But as the county's jailer, Arpaio's job, with at least 70 percent of his inmates awaiting trial, is simply to house the accused until their cases can be adjudicated in court. Arpaio is, in other words, a caretaker. It is up to judges and juries to decide the fate of the men and women in Arpaio's jails.

Some will no doubt be glad to learn that a man such as Lance Hawthorne suffered an ignominious death in Arpaio's care. But the sheriff's failure to deliver Hawthorne to his day in court could be an expensive one for taxpayers.

And sheriff's employees tell New Times that the problems with heat in Madison Street Jail have not been fixed.

The warmest weather of 1999 struck in the middle of April. On the 19th, with temperatures nearing the century mark, the swamp coolers of the jail proved ineffective, and detention officers had to quell a near riot. Employees say that inmates refused to enter their cells on one of the jail's floors, and detention officers donned riot gear. "They eventually cut a deal with the inmates by agreeing to bring them ice water," says a sheriff's source.

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address: tortega@newtimes.com

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