Joe Arpaio Turns a Blind Eye to Jailhouse Justice

A  few months ago, Alan DeLong sat down to watch a new reality show on the Discovery Channel.

First Week In goes inside jails around the nation and does mini-profiles of newly incarcerated inmates as they experience degradations at their hardcore digs.

The episode was titled "Intimidation" (not to be confused with the subsequent installment, "Fresh Meat").

Maricopa County's Durango Jail, where DeLong was jumped by fellow inmates.
Maricopa County's Durango Jail, where DeLong was jumped by fellow inmates.
Abel Hinojosa served as a "torpedo" and knocked out DeLong's eye.
Abel Hinojosa served as a "torpedo" and knocked out DeLong's eye.

The subject matter hit DeLong hard.

He is a crusty Phoenix man who has had his share of dark times in his 57 years, and he doesn't scare easily.

But DeLong says his emotions overwhelmed him as he watched the part of First Week In filmed inside the Durango Jail, which is part of Maricopa County's array of penal facilities.

Almost eight years ago, as an inmate at Durango, DeLong endured what he calls simply "my worst moment."


The moment, which actually lasted about a minute, changed DeLong's life forever.

Four or five thugs attacked him without warning one night in September 2004 after he stepped into a bathroom to fill up a water jug.

It was the sole bathroom in D-pod of housing unit 6 at Durango, a "general population" facility in South Phoenix that opened in 1976.

The lead "torpedo," or enforcer, inside the bathroom was a member of the "Chicanos," American-born Latinos locked up at the time. He was Abel Hinojosa, a sturdy Gila Bend man in his mid-20s who was about to be sentenced on a criminal damage rap.

Hinojosa sucker-punched DeLong in the right eye after the older man turned around after feeling a tap on his shoulder. He and his pals then beat DeLong savagely until he was able to escape from the room.

The detention officer who escorted DeLong to the county hospital fainted when he saw the horrific damage to the inmate's eye.

Alan DeLong turned out to be the wrong target, a tragic case of mistaken identity. Another older white man who apparently owed a "Chicano" about $60 was the true target.

All this happened just hours after a Maricopa County judge had sentenced DeLong to 2 1/2 years in prison on an aggravated-drunken-driving conviction.

But a scheduling snafu led to his temporary return to Durango instead of getting shipped to a state prison in Kingman.

The bathroom where the torpedo and his cohorts pummeled DeLong was the longtime epicenter of Durango's continued prisoner (or prisoners)-on-prisoner assaults.

Most beatings were sanctioned by leaders of various incarcerated ethnic groups — mostly Latinos and Anglos — ostensibly to keep the general peace between races.

The bathroom was the pod's ground zero with good reason:

Citing "privacy concerns," sheriff's officials declined to install security cameras or audio equipment inside Durango's bathrooms, and detention officers usually had no idea what was going on there.

In a 2009 civil deposition, MCSO Sergeant Rocky Medina was asked: "From your experience as a detention officer, are the restrooms a problem area?"

"Yes," Medina replied. "Because there is no detection. There is no visual. There is no camera. It's a blind spot to everybody. And the way the pods are set up at Durango, even if you're looking on the monitor or you're looking directly into the pod, you cannot see into the restroom or the cells themselves, to be honest."

Another detention officer, Trevor King, was asked: "If someone has to assault someone, is [the bathroom] where they would do it?"

"You can say that. Yes," King said.

"And that was because there weren't any cameras there?"

"Well, because they don't want to get caught."

A twist: From 2000 to 2003, the Maricopa County sheriff's website championed Joe Arpaio's "Jail Cam," a 24-hour webcast that showed live video of arrestees moving about at the Madison Street Jail. Plaintiffs in a civil case that Arpaio eventually lost alleged that, for months, one camera had captured images of the toilet and nearby area in the women's holding cell. They argued that MCSO officials repositioned the camera only in response to the lawsuit. Arpaio countered that his officers had moved the camera hours after learning that images of the toilet area were on the Internet.

Beyond having no cameras in the Durango bathrooms, detention officers later admitted that they rarely stepped inside to see for themselves what was going on.

One officer said in a deposition that he would seek assistance if a colleague did go in the bathroom and didn't reappear by the count of five.

"He has a problem or he's in a world of hurt," the officer said of the hypothetical situation.

The Durango Jail in 2004 was a "gladiator school," as one inmate later dubbed it.

Back to that Discovery Channel show that aired in Phoenix earlier this year.

What infuriated Alan DeLong most about First Week In was how little had changed since he fled D-pod holding a blood-soaked towel over his shattered eye.

The show's unfettered access to Sheriff Arpaio's jail spoke for itself.

The bathroom situation at Durango was precisely the same late last year (when the TV cameras were inside) as in 2004 — only the names and faces of the inmates were different:

The latest generation of "torpedoes," also known as "chin checkers," continued to use their fists with impunity in the privacy of the john with little fear of reprisals from MCSO officials.

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31 comments
Guest
Guest

Restraint of "official" goverment sanctioned (by action or inaction) violence is a fundamentally conservative and revolutionary concept which way a key to the American Revolution -- it is not a "liberal" thing.

TiredOfMorons
TiredOfMorons

Nice myopic viewpoint. Is everything that simple and black & white in your world? Because here in the real world, not everything works that way.

guest
guest

The only reason they took the cameras out was so you wouldn't see the Constitution being used for toilet paper.

Mary
Mary

SORRY, I'm with the SHERIFF! You should have known what to expect before you acted on the implulse that put you in prison!

Cliffk_ii
Cliffk_ii

crisis??? Really??? They all left and went to Texas. Got anything else you want to scare us with??

TimPinto
TimPinto

Yeah, on the "webb" you say? Sure it's not the "web?" You sympathizers sure are an intelligent lot, aren't you?

Tom
Tom

When Yahoo gets a good liberal propaganda piece they leave it up for weeks. I wonder how long this one will be here.

Shawn
Shawn

News Times turn blind eye to reporting truth of illegal alien crisis in Az.

Shawnusa
Shawnusa

News Times Left Wing lunatics turn blind eye at reporting facts on illegal aliens. The journos have SOLD OUT!

BJ
BJ

Obama just signed an executive order keeping the Fast and Furious documents away from Congress,I guess this will make everyone at the New Times jump for joy !!

Burris Travis
Burris Travis

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Burris Travis
Burris Travis

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big camper
big camper

Tell me yahoo and new times, are you in each others pocket? I see the same 2 stories on Phoenix news now for more than a week! Who cares? Just because you want to run a sting on MCCS, why do yahoo readers have to see the same old news stories for weeks at a time. Move on, get a life!

Jjbooboo222
Jjbooboo222

Dude.. you do realize these are American Born people.. Not all Latinos are from Mexico.. Typical Racist trash..

Rhonda Mauk
Rhonda Mauk

He keeps getting voted in, because this is what the majority of Az wants!

Stinson
Stinson

"Arpio gets voted in everytime, because most ppl think just like me" Yeah, and they spell like you too, which explains why the average IQ level of people in this state has landed us in a crisis due to horrible leadership and bad elected officials.

JeanRayburn
JeanRayburn

The sheer stupidity of your multiple comments on this article have made it abundantly clear that you're not to be taken seriously.

Rhonda Mauk
Rhonda Mauk

No, I wouldn't. I raised four sons in west phx, unfortunatley, and I new I did a good job teaching them right from wrong and they new, if you get in trouble, then you pay the price, I'll be waiting when you get out, I was lucky, only one was ever in trouble, live by the sword die by the sword, I didn't change my mind then and I don't now, they are all good men today, your just soft and your not part of the solution, your part of the prob. Arpio gets voted in everytime, because most ppl think just like me

Rhonda Mauk
Rhonda Mauk

He gets voted in because the majority of Az. like the job he does!!! Who cares how old he is if he's doing the job the ppl want him to do

PaulRubinsFavoriteDick
PaulRubinsFavoriteDick

Your mistaken Jose.. Its the Chicanos, Mexican Mafia, douchebags who will be doing the fu-kin to you as thier little bitch while you scream for Joe and his Deputies to come save your pathetic ass. Pendejo

azbee
azbee

The jail system here sucks, dui"s are not a killing type, they just made a mistake in there life they still have rights and should be treatred according not like a bunch of commom crimmials those who have commented must be part of the problem, most of the officers are a bunch of jerks making a name for themselves, the system needs to change we are not doing any favors for those being put in jail, instead we should be rehabing them and putting them on the right tract, arizona needs to wise up and revamp there system.

PaulRubinsucksDick
PaulRubinsucksDick

Paul Rubin writes trash filled hyperbolic crap targeted to the loyal fans of this liberal advertising rag. It's not Joe A's fault that the prisons are filled with scum. What exactly did Paul Rubin think that he would find in prison; his relatives? Paul should get off his knees and quit sucking the liberal dick. Grow up you fucking pansy.

Jmac185085
Jmac185085

Why would a criminal feel they have a right to privacy?

Guest
Guest

I really don't get it... If Detention Officers intervene, and stop the shitheads from beating someone down, then they get their mothers go to on local news and wail about how the mean detention officers hurt her poor baby! And they're the bad guys, for stepping in and STOPPING violence.

alehound
alehound

This article saddens me.....

Coz
Coz

Judging from the latest posts, obviously kindergarten is out for the summer.

MrEthiopian
MrEthiopian

Mary your an insensitive bitch, that deserves a bit of payback karma herself. Allen was in prison for a repeat DWI conviction, not a molestation, rape, robbery or any other violent offense, why should a man who has no history of violence be put in a maximum security general population? The state has a responsibility to adequately protect its inmate population, just because people are in jail does not mean the state can mistreat them. This should be more than evident to anyone in the state, given that sheriff Joe has cost the tax payers an additional 50 million dollars in lawsuits judgements, that would never had incurred if Joe was doing his job and standard adequate protection was given like in another state penal system. Your stupid mentality will continue to cost the tax payers of this state potentially hundreds of millions of dollars should the inmates create a multiple party suite.

Conservative American
Conservative American

Most inmates in Arpaio's jails haven't been convicted of anything - they are awaiting trial. If you believe in America, if you love the Constitution, then you must - you simply must - embrace the American right to the presumption of innocence. If you don't, then you are no American. Leave, leave now. We don't need you.

Catcaio
Catcaio

The women's jail at Estrella is no better. When push comes to shove, you take your dirty bed sheet and tie it around your neck and put the other end in the toilet and flush it and just hooe for the best.

 
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