Joe Arpaio's Expectant Mom-Shackling Earns Him Another Lawsuit

Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, and her son angel, born Christmas week, 2009.
Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, and her son angel, born Christmas week, 2009.

Living in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County is like living in a medieval version of the movie Groundhog Day, where each morning one awakens with further reminders that we do not live in the civilized world.

Two years ago, I first told you about Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, whose son Angel was born Christmas week, 2009, while Mendiola-Martinez was in MCSO custody after being arrested by the Scottsdale Police Department.

When I met with her at the offices of her attorney Delia Salvateria, Mendiola-Martinez was up-front about having purchased a fake identity on the black market so that she could work as a cleaner at a Dillard's department store.

Held in MCSO custody, with an "immigration hold" on her from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she was shackled on and off during much of her stay in Arpaio's jails, despite the fact that she was pregnant. 

She barely escaped being shackled during Angel's C-section birth on December 21, 2009. This, due to a female MCSO detention officer, who showed sympathy for Mendiola-Martinez's plight, and removed her leg restraint during the Caesarian.

But before and after the operation, she was shackled to the bed. In fact, when I spoke to her, she recalled how a male, Hispanic guard, put the restraint back on her after the baby was born.

"He made the restraint on my left ankle very tight," she recalled through an interpreter. "One time, the nurse came in and could see that my foot was swollen because he would not loosen it."

Prior to giving birth, Mendiola-Martinez, a slight woman of 4 feet, 9 inches, was treated harshly and fed little. Following her son's nativity, she was only allowed to see him twice, and was not allowed to nurse him.

When she finally left the county hospital on December 23, the MCSO was back to treating her as if she were Hannibal Lecter. 

She was forced to march through the hospital in shackles, her hands bound before her, the wound from her C-section still bleeding.

With the help of her criminal attorney David Black, Mendiola-Martinez cut a plea deal, and was released from jail on Christmas Day. Salvateria, her immigration attorney, did heroic work in making sure that Mendiola-Martinez was not transferred to ICE's custody.

ICE later denied the Christmas holiday had anything to do with Mendiola-Martinez being cut some slack. But I'm sure the inevitable comparisons to the Holy Family helped grease the skids.

Her case is now the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit, naming Sheriff Arpaio as the lead defendant. 

The suit was filed Monday, and is drawing attention from national press in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice's report on the MCSO's pattern and practice of discriminatory policing, racial profiling, and institutional bias toward Latinos in Arpaio's jails.

But such atrocities are only new to the world outside Arizona. Inside this state, the MCSO's penchant for shackling pregnant women is well-known to Arpaio-watchers.

My colleague Valeria Fernandez documented a far worse case in a 2009 article for New Times. 

In 2008, Alma Chacon was chained by her hands and feet to a hospital bed while in MCSO custody. You can read Chacon's story in full, here.

Shackling pregnant women is contrary to the policies of the Arizona Department of Corrections, ICE, the U.S. Marshal's Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, etc.

But the MCSO still treats pregnant women like animals, and crows about it. 

Proud to be a resident of Maricopa County? If so, the civilized world is wondering why.


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