Mail Order Joe

The cranky cockatoo criticizes Sheriff Joe's new jail mail policy, and agitates the agitators at last week's kooky counter-protest

As if this outraged owl needed more proof that Maricopa County's gone mad, Sheriff "Nickel Bag" Joe Arpaio announced two months ago that he would implement a new policy on jail mail on May 1. That is, inmates ain't allowed none. Or nearly none. Already, prisoners of Arpaio's gulags can communicate out only via prison postcards featuring Joe's wrinkled mug or pics of stripe-wearin' denizens of Tent City with the greeting, "Hello from Sunny Arizona!" Now, most all incoming mail will be restricted to postcards as well.

Remember, about 75 percent of those in Joe's jails at any given time are awaiting trial, and presumed innocent. So, if you've been pinched for a minor crime and can't afford bail, not only do you languish in Arpaio's slammer, eat his grody grub, and risk getting beaten to death by guards or fellow inmates, your loved ones can't even write you a friggin' letter.

Legal mail is exempted, as are periodical subscriptions and money orders to a prisoner's account. But personal correspondence must come in the form of metered postcards, meaning you can't use a stamp, but must have the card run through a postal machine. Also, blue or black ink only, folks, though Joe and his supporters are usually more comfy using crayons.

Fred Harper

According to Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, Joe's new policy is the most restrictive one of its kind in the country.

"Beyond the legality of it, it seems to be just another mean thing that Arpaio's come out with to further alienate and isolate the prisoners in his captivity," said Wright. "For many people in jail, the mail is an essential means of communicating with their families, and everyone else. I don't think this policy will pass constitutional muster."

That depends on whom you're askin'. AZ ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda insisted the ACLU's looking at the new policy but is not sure it can challenge it yet.

"Unfortunately, shitty acts and bad policies don't translate into constitutional wrongs," explained Pochoda. "They can open all letters now, other than legal mail. So, it's a relative standard. The law is so crummy in terms of any rights of people in jails or prisons, and certainly any privacy rights, that it's hard to [challenge], as bad as this is on its face."

The justification for this pinheaded postal ban? "To ensure the safety of jail facilities, inmates, and staff," according to the MCSO. Interesting, considering the fact that Arpaio's facilities are often deadly for those inhabiting them, spawning lawsuit upon lawsuit, with multimillion-dollar cash awards going to plaintiffs.

Currently, crackerjack counselor Mike Manning is in court, suing Arpaio and Maricopa County for $12 million in the wrongful death of Phillip Wilson, an MCSO informant who was discovered and beaten by the Aryan Brotherhood into a coma from which he never awoke. This razorbilled chirper got hold of some of last week's trial transcripts, and alighted on the fact that Peter Crowley, head of the county's risk-management department, admitted in his testimony that he hand-delivered a letter to the sheriff's offices in 2003, months before Wilson was murdered, warning Arpaio that if certain changes weren't made in the way Tent City's run, both the county and Arpaio could be held liable for deaths occurring on their watch.

If the county's own risk-management guys think Tent City's unsafe and liable to result in successful lawsuits that taxpayers of this county have to pay, then Joe should be doing something to make those facilities safer and more humane rather than clamping down on a basic human right like receiving mail, one that even most POWs are afforded.

But it's Arpaio's policy to keep Tent City and his incarceration chambers understaffed, unsafe and generally negligent. In Arpaio's 1996 book, America's Toughest Sheriff: How We Can Win the War Against Crime, he writes, "The tents weren't only for drunk drivers and purse snatchers, we were entertaining drug dealers, and sex offenders, and murderers too, with no more than two or three detention officers guarding them at any time."

As this spoonbill's spat before, Arpaio routinely flouts the rights of Maricopa County's citizenry, as well as of this paper, by refusing our public records requests, and urging Pinal County to prosecute us for revealing Joe's address online, even though anyone with an Internet connection can discover same. Joe remains accountable to no one, no matter how obvious his misdeeds are, or how many times the county takes a hit on his behalf in civil court. How much longer must we endure this reign of error?


There's nothing this cee-gar chompin' chickadee enjoys more than bending a wing at a local watering hole, firin' up a triple Corona and doing its best Ron White impersonation for all the assembled alcoholics. It's one of the many perks this parakeet discovered after its move three years ago to the Zona from California, where the socialist nanny state barely permits a peregrine falcon to wipe its own tail feathers, much less blow smoke in bars.

By contrast to candy-ass Cali, here in Sand Land, they still allowed you to wear a pistol on your hip, ride a motorcycle sans helmet, and — up 'til the beginning of this month — puff like a choo-choo in taverns. Valley-wide, only in the People’s Republic of Tempe did you have to worry about a do-gooder ordinance restricting your freedoms in drinkaterias. Oddly, Mormon Mesa had a fairer law, which let businesses restrict cancer-stick suckers, either by not allowing them at all, giving them a ventilated area to light up, or letting them inhale Marlboros to their lungs' content. (Chandler also had an anti-smoking ordinance, but it excluded bars from the mix.)

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When is someone going to do something about that idiot, Sheriff Joe?? He's out of control. After he was not found negligent in the Tent City beating, I have to now question our judicial system. Kinds of makes you wonder....


I wish Sheriff Joe was the head of Homeland Security.

cactusman, One thing you can say for sure: The vast majority of those pouring over our southern border are not patriots from Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, or other countries.

Instead of demanding reform in their homelands they took the easy way out. I have empathy for their situation, but they garner no respect from me by turning tail and fleeing north. Most of them are men - who left their women and children behind. No - they get no respect from me at all. I consider them cowards.


You people don't realize it do ya?

This sheriff is just focusing in on matters non-relating to his real job as a police top dog. Who is he trying to fool?

Of course, the American people he wants to keep happy by going against illegal immigrants -thats the only way he can make someone happy- and not going against the real criminals such as drug-dealers, gang-members and other trash.

Arpaio GET TO WORK ... do your real job


i'm interested in the anti-Hispanic Hispanic lady. does she think her shit don't stink for some reason? sounds totally like some weird class thing. like, if you have the money to follow all the rules and come here legally you're better than all these wetbacks who are so poor they have to cross the desert to get here! are there other Hispanic like her, i wonder who diss their own people just because they've been here longer or came through accepted channells?


That's Sheriff Joe for ya! This is yet another example of one of his famous, ridiculous publicity stunts; he was overdue. There's no valid reason for this action. His office states it was done for "safety" -- I guess papercuts are running rampant throughout the jail! Heaven forbid that happen.

Peggy Simpson
Peggy Simpson

Well, I'm getting out of Republic of Arizona ASAP. Anyone in the market for a small house in Wickenburg? View (from both sides), horse property, 1.28 acres, Botanical Garden with lush and varied desert plants, 1 mile from town. A real steal at $250K.

Worried American Citizen
Worried American Citizen

I went to the U.S.A. rally last week just see how many other concerned citizens like myself would have the guts to show up and let their concerns about the future of this country be known if only in their numbers but they did'nt because they don't want to be called racists,skinheads,idiots or any of the other derogatory names the open borders crowd hangs on them. Just like the smokers you referred to in your column they're lazyand afraid to be associated with what most liberal mainstream media tells them is an unpopular and unwinable cause. But someday like the smokers they're going to wonder how the hell someone who came here illegaly is now given the same constitutional rights they've always had. but sadly were to lazy to exercise, like the right to disagree with people like you. That jackass Pres. Bush tells us that social security will be broke by 2041 and in the McCain kennedy bill they say that someone can come from mexico and claim they worked in mexico for 8-1/2yrs. and have worked here for 1-1/2yrs. and they are eligible for social security and medicare. An american citizen has to work 10yrs throughout they're lifetime, reach a certain age or become disabled before they're eligible if they're lucky. Which is where I come in, I have been paralysed since 1970 and am now 50yrs. old, I left california 12yrs. ago I saw first hand what a drain on the medical system all these poor illegals brought about. With so many americans now being screwed out of they're pensions and medical coverage tell me how the hell we can afford to bring millions of mainly low wage earning people onto social security and medicare they're not getting any younger either. Maybe if they demanded the same so called rights in they're country as they are here things would be better for they're entire nation and not just themselves but I guess thats the whole point bring em' all right. I don't know if you have children but, if the teacher came to you and said Mr. Birdbrain you're chicks are'nt stupid I just do'nt have the time I need to teach all of these poor illiterate non english speaking children or your children a decent education.But I'm sure that you would gladly let childrens education suffer, since they really don't need it anyhow because it seems like the only jobs we have left in this country are jobs AMERICANS won't do right. Keep on sticking to Sheriff Joke and Janet from another planet. I look forward to seeing this posted you might be surprised someone might agree with my opinion, for the record I do not believe in mass deportation or mass amnesty a little common sence would be nice though.


Ha-ha! "The Mexicans didn't shhot it off." Keep fucking with these pricks. They deserve every smack you give 'em. Just moved to the valley, and these sorts of people disgust me. Why don't they get a life? A: They have none, just like Buffalo Patty there, or whatever his name is.

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