A couple of years ago, I thought I saw a glimpse of humanity in the convicted criminal who wants to be your next U.S. Senator.
I was with Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer during a two-hour interview with Sheriff Joe Arpaio back in 2015, when he was still a resident in the condominium he called his office and I was an editor at the desert’s daily drag.
After droning on through one predictable answer after another, the sheriff halted for a moment when Kiefer asked about an issue several critics had raised:
“You say you’re an animal lover, so why don’t you even own a dog?”
I can’t remember his exact answer, but I swear I saw America’s Toughest Sheriff tear up. He explained that too many people who didn’t like him knew where he lived, and since he was gone a lot, it wouldn’t be safe for his wife, Ava, to walk the dog around the neighborhood.
Aww. As a dog lover, I felt a little bit sorry for him.
But then a couple of years later, I read a 2004 Phoenix New Times story, “Dog Day Afternoon,” about the day his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department goons raided a house in Ahwatukee, set it on fire, then forced the family’s 10-month-old puppy to run back into the burning home, where it died, as you can imagine, a horrible death.
I never read an apology from Arpaio, even after it was discovered that the homeowner’s only crime was a warrant for failing to appear in court on a couple of traffic citations.
That story outlines one of the many ugly contradictions of Sheriff Joe.
He is an affable man who presided over despicable things.
He is the son of immigrants who ruined the lives of thousands of people who, like his parents, came here to seek a better life.
He is a loving father, husband, and grandfather who forced the breakup of thousands of families.
He is a champion of law and order who repeatedly defied a court order.
And now he’s able to run for a U.S. Senate seat, courtesy of a pardon by his soulmate, President Donald Trump.
Do not vote for this man.
The “Dog Day Afternoon” story has been the most popular of a string of New Times articles on Arpaio, written over two decades, that took the nation by tweetstorm when we published them on social media the day he was pardoned, August 25.
More than 1 million readers learned that there were many more horror stories about Sheriff Joe than the racial profiling incidents that led to his conviction for criminal contempt of court.
Among those who retweeted the strand of shame were Chelsea Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, actor Mark Ruffalo, Olympic champion Carl Lewis, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., comedian Seth Meyers, NBC’s Katy Tur, and Mr. Wikileaks himself, Julian Assange.
Clinton tweeted: “Thread for anyone who cares about justice, civil rights, human rights, law & order, our country.”
Her father’s former mistress was more blunt.
“THIS ARPAIO THREAD,” Lewinsky wrote.
I liked the CAPS.
But no one captured the spirit of the Arpaio Chronicles better than saucy songstress Bette Midler.
“THAT MOTHERFUCKER!!!” she tweeted “The utterly repulsive President pardons a vicious racial profiler who has caused death and misery for years. #IMPEACH!”
If you don't have time to read all these stories online, we are publishing excerpts from 10 of our Worst of Sheriff Joe stories today, in honor of his decision to enter the wackiest Senate race in the country. (Links to the full stories are included in the headlines.)
We suspect the 85-year-old lawbreaker didn’t really sign up to win the Senate seat. He’d be 91 years old at the end of his term. More likely, he’s settling a debt with the Pardoner in Chief. Arpaio’s presence should split the crazy vote in the Republican primary among himself, former Steve Bannon acolyte Dr. Kelli Ward, and former revenge porn website operator Craig Brittain. That would create a clear flight path to victory for Congresswoman and former military pilot Martha McSally to face Democratic Congresswoman and former homeless person Kyrsten Sinema in November.
But back to the burning puppy story, which has had almost 140,000 views since August. In addition to it, you’re getting nine more Reader's Digest versions of these blasts from the past.
Any one of those articles should dissuade you from voting for Arpaio. If not, there are plenty more where those came from.
They are all true stories. As is this:
I was enduring a prostate exam last week just after the news of Arpaio’s entering the Senate race broke.
My doctor said he’d once had an encounter with Arpaio, who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall.
“I was introduced to him at a fundraiser,” the doctor said.
“I didn’t recognize him … and he seemed upset at that. He asked me, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ Then he walked off.
“I guess he expected I’d know him, but from all I’d read about him I was expecting someone who was much bigger,” the doctor continued.
“He’s really a little man.”
Read on, and I think you will agree.
1. Dog Day Afternoon
August 5, 2004
Justin Delfino looked out the window of his Ahwatukee home and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Several men dressed in black jeans and green shirts were getting out of an unmarked white Suburban, casually putting on flak jackets and helmets.
Delfino had no idea he was witnessing the final preparations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team moments before it unleashed a barrage of tear gas grenades into his neighbor’s home.
“They looked unprofessional. They were getting dressed on the scene. They weren’t organized,” Delfino, 22, says.
From his vantage point inside his home, Delfino couldn’t see that deputies had rolled an armored personnel carrier into the neighbor’s front yard as they prepared to storm the house.
“I thought, these must be their friends and they are going to try and shoot paint balls at them,” Delfino says.
But soon he knew that what he first thought was a gag must be about something deadly serious.
“I saw one of the guys was perched and aiming a gun at the window,” he says. “All of a sudden, he fires off a tear gas round into the upstairs window.
“I immediately called 911. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Delfino says the men continued firing tear gas canisters through three upstairs windows in the front of the house. He saw others wearing flak jackets go around to the back of the house, where he heard them fire two more rounds at the upstairs windows of a back bedroom.
Moments later, the situation deteriorated even further when the house erupted into flames. Now, the entire neighborhood of closely packed homes was threatened by the possibility of fire.
There wasn’t a fire truck in sight.
Delfino’s ’hood wouldn’t have fared much worse if it had been a gang of street thugs blasting away at the house, rather than Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s inept and bumbling SWAT team.
In less than 30 minutes, Arpaio’s special forces unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence on this quiet community. Consider this:
• Just after the tear gas canisters were shot, a fire erupted and destroyed a $250,000 home plus all the contents inside. (The home’s occupants believe the tear gas canisters caused the fire. Phoenix fire officials say the blaze was probably started by a lighted candle that was knocked onto a bed during the confusion.)
• The armored personnel carrier careened down the street and smashed into a parked car after its brakes failed.
• And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.
Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog’s owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.
“I was crying hysterically,” Andrea Barker, one of the dog’s owners, tells me. “I was so upset. [The deputies] were laughing at me.”
And what did Arpaio’s crack SWAT team net from the raid that left a needless trail of death and destruction?
MCSO stormed the house believing there was a cache of stolen automatic weapons and armor-piercing ammunition. But MCSO got bushwhacked. Instead of finding weapons of mass destruction, they discovered an antique shotgun and a 9 mm pistol that appear to be legal weapons.
There was no sign of the cop-killer bullets. But the crack SWAT boys did nab 26-year-old Eric Kush. Let me tell you, Kush is really a bad, bad guy.
He was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failing to appear in Tempe Municipal Court on a couple of traffic citations.
Thank God he’s off the street. Well, not quite. He posted his $1,000 bond on the misdemeanor warrant and was quickly released from jail.
Kush told Channel 3 that sheriff’s deputies thought it was hilarious that his dog had burned to death in the fire.
“As they’re hog-tying me, they have the nerve and the audacity to laugh at me and say, ‘Did you hear that dog screaming upstairs?’” Kush told Channel 3. “I don’t know how they have the audacity and the heart to say something like that.” John Dougherty
2. Jailers Show a Paraplegic Who's Boss
January 23, 1997
Richard Post spent only a few hours in the Madison Street Jail (also known as the Fourth Avenue Jail), but in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s penal colony, no stay is too short to avoid abuse.
Especially for inmates like Post, who make demands on their captors. For those kinds of troublemakers, Arpaio’s jailers reserve a special form of treatment.
Call it the Madison Street Special: Jailers stuff unruly inmates into a medieval-looking restraint chair and — federal investigators have found — heap abuse on their immobilized wards.
Injuries and even a death have resulted from the use of the restraint chair, but Arpaio continues to defend its use for locking down trouble inmates.
Inmates such as Richard Post.
After all, Post, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, had pounded on his cell door demanding that a jail nurse give him a catheter so he could urinate.
For Arpaio’s jailers, it was an easy call: Post needed “chairing.” So they crammed him into the device and left him in it for six hours.
They ignored his pleas that such treatment of a paraplegic would cause serious injuries. In fact, the lower, paralyzed portions of his body were severely damaged, and Post would spend four months in bed, convalescing.
But Post’s protestations fell on deaf ears. Jailers intended to teach Post a lesson he would never forget. So they strapped him down roughly into the metal contraption, and tightened its leather straps with all their might.
And broke Post’s neck.
And now, almost a year after his stay in Joe Arpaio’s jail, Post has lost much of the use of his arms, and faces surgery to remove a vertebra from his neck.
It’s a tough penalty meted out by a tough sheriff, but then that’s the avowed mission of a lawman who brags that his jails are meant to be so miserable no inmate will ever break the law again.
And that includes evildoers such as Richard Post, who has spent a total of one night in jail in his life.
His crime: possessing a gram of marijuana and calling someone an Englishman. Tony Ortega
3. A Phony Murder Plot Against Arpaio Costs Taxpayers $1.1 Million
October 28, 2008
Taxpayers spent $1,102,528.50 this year to settle another of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lawsuits, New Times has learned through a public records request. The suit was brought by a man whom Arpaio framed in 1999 in a staged murder plot against the sheriff.
The payout, nine years after the wrongful arrest, is an indication that the aging lawman’s publicity-driven, unsavory antics may keep costing taxpayers big money well into the future. The county is already struggling with a huge budget deficit, and the excessive costs of Arpaio’s operation isn’t helping matters.
In 2004, victim James Saville’s family sued Arpaio for $10 million, after Saville was found not guilty of attempting to kill the sheriff. The county recently settled with Saville for an undisclosed amount. It only had to pay the above amount out of public coffers; its insurance policy covered the rest.
Before you wish that you could collect $1 million by getting framed for Arpaio’s murder, consider that Saville spent four years in county jail, awaiting trial as a result of the made-up crime.
In 1999, Arpaio’s staff rigged the entire fake assassination plot — just so he could get his mug on TV.
News cameras were already rolling when deputies arrested Saville. Gullible TV reporters gobbled up Arpaio’s story about a local Unabomber who was plotting to kill America’s “toughest” sheriff.
In 2004, a jury found Saville innocent of all charges. Not only that, but it ruled that Arpaio’s minions helped buy the bomb parts themselves and “entrapped” Saville in a TV-ready murder plot.
Arpaio was re-elected just months after the jury verdict. (Journalists John Dougherty and Janna Bommersbach unraveled the tale in separate articles.)
“Jurors listened in disbelief as testimony showed it was the sheriff’s money that purchased the bomb parts, and an undercover officer who drove Saville around to buy the parts,” Bommersbach wrote. John Dickerson
4. Joe Arpaio Goes Medieval
February 4, 2009
We live in two Americas: Joe Arpaio’s medieval Maricopa County, where barbarism reigns, and our corrupt top cop parades hundreds of Hispanics through the streets in chains, like captives taken in some feudal conflict from faded memory. And then there’s Barack Obama’s America, one of enlightenment, and the rule of law, and education and justice. But for the time being at least, Obama’s America ends at the borders of Maricopa County.
Joe Arpaio is the King of Maricopa County. He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And today, our sadistic septuagenarian wanted an inhumane spectacle to make everyone ignore the fact that one of his chief underlings, Captain Joel Fox — the MCSO’s bagman — was being scrutinized over a $105,000 campaign contribution made to the Arizona Republican Party which was used to smear Arpaio’s opponent Dan Saban in the 2008 campaign for sheriff.
It’s not the first time Arpaio’s pulled something like this, of course. He did it in 2005, when 700 prisoners were moved from one jail to another in only their pink underwear and flip-flops. But this time, for all intents and purposes, Arpaio was segregating inmates according to race, moving over 200 “illegal aliens” to their own Tent City, ringed by an electric fence.
Almost all of the men running the press gauntlet were Hispanic. They wore striped uniforms, were chained to each other, and in some cases carried their belongings with them in paper or plastic sacks. Their garb read “UNSENTENCED,” a reminder that 70 percent of those in Joe’s jails have not been convicted of anything, and are simply awaiting trial.
After the prisoners filed into their new home, I tried to follow them, but was ordered away by a corrections officer specifically assigned to make sure I didn’t get in to ask Joe how he was going to pay for Joel Fox’s possible $315,000 fine for successfully skirting campaign finance laws. So I hopped a ride with Sal Reza and some other activists, who were nearby and headed to where a line of protesters led by former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez was.
Assembled for a news conference there were lawyers Danny Ortega and Antonio Bustamante, the AZ ACLU’s executive director Alessandra Soler Meetz, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, and others.
“Doing publicity stunts ... like this stunt on the backs of immigrants,” stated Wilcox, “we will no longer tolerate that. We will be writing to the United States Justice Department. Things have changed in Washington. We will write a letter that will be answered, and we will put a stop to this.”
I wish I could feel as confident about the new administration, but I am not. Stephen Lemons
5. Pregnant Latina Said She Was Forced to Give Birth in Shackles
October 22, 2009
The bleeding kept her up all night, drenching her black-and-white-striped jail uniform.
Alma Chacón feared her baby would arrive early. Her nightmare had started with a traffic stop a day earlier.
She’d been weeping since. What if the baby is born here, in the jail? she thought.
In the afternoon, she was shackled and transported to Maricopa County Medical Center, where she gave birth in a “forensic restraint.” She couldn’t hold her baby daughter or kiss her. She could only watch as hospital personnel carried the infant out the door. She wouldn’t see the baby for 72 days.
On the afternoon of October 12, 2008, Chacón came head to head with a sheriff’s deputy. It was a Sunday and she was on her way to cash a check at the grocery store. Giselle, her 8-year-old, was along for the ride.
“He looked at me, did a U-turn, and got behind the car,” she said of the sheriff’s deputy. “There wasn’t time to check my plates.”
When he came to the driver’s-side window, she handed him her Mexican consular card.
“When are you due?” the deputy asked in English.
“October 21,” she answered.
Minutes later, he put her in handcuffs. There were two warrants for her arrest. Chacón owed more than $1,000 in fines for driving without a license and had a misdemeanor shoplifting charge.
She spent her first night at the Fourth Avenue Jail on a cold cement bench. The following day, she was taken to the Estrella jail.
During her second night behind bars, the bleeding started. On the morning of October 14, she felt contractions. Her hands and feet shackled, she was in labor and ushered into a paramedic’s van by a detention officer who restrained her to the stretcher.
She thought she would be released from the shackles once she arrived at the hospital, but she wasn’t.
The officer chained her ankle to one leg of the hospital bed.
A nurse requested that she be freed to get a urine sample. But the officer suggested instead that her bed be dragged over to the bathroom.
Later, she was changed from her jail uniform into a hospital gown.
“The officer chained me by the feet and the hands to the bed,” she said. “And that’s how my daughter was born.”
Baby Jacqueline was delivered at 9:25 p.m. and weighed 6.28 pounds. Chacón stared at her daughter as nurses cleaned her. It was a precious eight minutes, she said. But they didn’t allow her to hold the baby.
When questioned later about the incident, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, “I wasn’t the one who kept her from holding the baby. Ask the hospital.”
She waited 14 extra days in jail to be picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The story of an immigrant mother’s struggle to care for her children was told repeatedly on Spanish-language radio. People in her community raised the $3,000 needed to make the bond set by an immigration judge, and she was released from custody.
A year later, she had not been deported.
“I’m not afraid to come out with my story,” she said. “But I’m disappointed to see that not much has been done to stop [Joe Arpaio].” Valeria Fernandez
6. Victims Wonder Why Arpaio Let Sex-Abuse Cases Languish
February 16, 2012
Late 2005 to October 2007 was not a good time to be raped or molested in El Mirage.
During that time, the town had signed a contract to pay the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office $3.6 million for police services. But Sheriff Joe Arpaio didn’t use the money to bolster his sex-crimes unit. Instead, the publicity-hungry sheriff’s focus, as always, was on political witch hunts and pet projects that got his name in lights.
Victims of sex crimes — mostly children — in the town and throughout the county still are paying for Arpaio’s misguided policies. Rapists and child molesters got away with their crimes.
Levalya Beyart, a social worker and single mother who wanted her name used in this article, remembers the horror she felt when she opened the front door of her modest home in a gated community in El Mirage on July 11, 2007.
Her mentally challenged 13-year-old daughter, who had been home alone, was “walking around in a daze,” she told New Times.
The girl was naked from the waist down, and her body was scratched and bruised.
At first, Beyart thought her daughter might have suffered a “flashback” to sexual abuse by a family member more than a year earlier.
But after Beyart got the girl to calm down, her daughter told a story that “sounded believable” to the mother.
Beyart’s daughter said a stranger had come to the door in the afternoon, begging to use the phone because his car had broken down. She let him in, and he attacked and raped her.
Beyart phoned police and reported the incident, records show. She says an El Mirage officer showed up at her home and drove the mother and daughter to a crisis center in Glendale, where a nurse conducted a forensic exam.
A few days passed, and Beyart became concerned that nobody was taking the case seriously.
She was right.
Records show that it quickly was assigned to detectives from the MCSO sex-crimes unit — who never even bothered to interview Beyart’s daughter.
Beyart was given an MCSO detective’s number to call. She doesn’t remember his name. But she’ll never forget what he told her.
The detective promised to follow up on the case but added, “This [is] not a priority,” according to Beyart.
In fact, records show, there was no follow-up. Beyart remains angry and disillusioned over the treatment that she and her daughter received from Joe Arpaio’s office.
“I don’t know,” she tells New Times. “I was really hurt. I’m not sure if it’s because we are people of color. They majorly dropped the ball.” Ray Stern
7. Joe Arpaio Avoids Getting “Lei’d” by Anti-Birther Activists
May 24, 2012
Wearing flip-flops, grass skirts, and Hawaiian leis, with surfboards in tow and the pungent odor of sunscreen trailing behind them, around 15 to 20 members of Citizens for a Better Arizona stormed the 19th floor of Phoenix’s Wells Fargo Building this afternoon, briefly taking over the entranceway to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tony executive offices.
The group’s gripe? The fact that Sheriff Joe had dispatched one of his deputies to Hawaii as security for Mike Zullo, a top doofus from Arpaio’s “cold case posse,” who’s still “investigating” crackpot claims that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a phony.
You’ll recall that Arpaio held a press conference in March to announce that his posse investigators had found “probable cause” that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery, despite the slew of Hawaiian officials, both Republican and Democrat, who have averred otherwise.
Arpaio has repeatedly told the press that this birther farce won’t cost the taxpayers dime one, though we now know that the bill for the birther investigation so far is $40,000. Even if that dough comes from posse funds, the deputy Arpaio sent to Hawaii is on the clock, and Arpaio’s office picked up the tab for Zullo and the deputy’s trip.
Supposedly, the posse will pay the county back for this absurd outlay of cash. Riiight. In any case, CBA and its fearless leader, Randy Parraz, figured they needed to hold a luau right in front of Arpaio’s swank digs to protest this shameless expenditure of public funds.
“He’s not running a private corporation,” Parraz said at one point, referring to Arpaio. “He should send us [to Hawaii]. We’re all qualified to go to Hawaii and do nothing.”
Up on the 19th floor, some demonstrators laid out beach towels and got comfy, while others sang songs and practiced their hula moves, all while Parraz jousted with a receptionist via the office intercom. He demanded that the sheriff show himself, or that one of his flunkies come out.
About that time, a couple of plainclothes deputies emerged. An older one identified himself as Angelo Calderone, the vice-chair of Arpaio’s security. He told Parraz that the sheriff would meet with him, but alone and with no cameras.
Parraz responded that he wanted Arpaio to come out and talk to everyone. Calderone said Arpaio wasn’t going to do that.
“This is America’s toughest sheriff?” Parraz exclaimed. Stephen Lemons
8. New Times Co-Founders Win $3.75 Million Settlement for False Arrests December 20, 2013
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this afternoon voted unanimously to approve a $3.75 million settlement for New Times’ co-founders, whose false arrests in 2007 were orchestrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and jailed on misdemeanor charges alleging that they violated the secrecy of a grand jury — which turned out never to have been convened.
The saga began in 2004, when then-New Times reporter John Dougherty dug into Arpaio’s commercial real estate transactions, questioning how a county sheriff could amass so much cash to invest in property and why records of the transactions were hidden from public view.
As part of Dougherty’s articles, Arpaio’s home address was published, as it was easily available online, including on government websites. The point was that Arpaio had hidden records of his commercial property but hadn’t done so for his actual home.
After Andrew Thomas took office as Maricopa County Attorney, Arpaio requested charges against New Times for revealing his home address, based on an arcane state statute that bars publishing such information on the internet if there’s a “timely threat” to an officer of the law.
Because Arpaio waited 10 months to call for an investigation, a County Attorney’s Office panel declined to prosecute.
So 2 1/2 years after New Times published the sheriff’s address, Arpaio and Thomas collaborated to appoint Phoenix attorney Dennis Wilenchik as a “special prosecutor” to go after the paper.
He issued grand jury subpoenas for the notes, records, and sources of the paper’s reporters and editors for all Arpaio-related stories over a broad period of time, as well as for the IP addresses of New Times’ readers of such stories.
Faced with all of this, Lacey and Larkin wrote a cover story detailing what they called a “breathtaking abuse of the Constitution.”
Arpaio’s deputies arrested them the night the story was published on charges of violating a grand jury.
The next day, after widespread public outrage, Thomas announced that Wilenchik was dismissed as special prosecutor and that the investigation was over. Judge Baca later declared that Wilenchik’s grand jury subpoenas were invalid, since he’d issued them without notice or approval from a grand jury or from the court.
“Unlike most of Arpaio’s victims, we had the financial wherewithal to defend ourselves in court, and we were able to speak through the newspaper,” Lacey and Larkin said in a statement. “But the vulnerable and impoverished victims of Arpaio’s ongoing abusive practices have neither the money nor the voice to fight back.” Matthew Hendley
9. Arpaio Costs County More than $44 Million in Melendres Expenses
May 18, 2015
Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling ways are making a serious dent in Maricopa County’s budget, to the tune of $44.5 million, and counting.
Maricopa County’s fiscal year 2016 budget, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Monday, allocates $23.8 million for costs associated with complying with a federal court’s orders in the civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.
Federal Judge G. Murray Snow ruled against Arpaio in 2013 and later ordered a series of reforms for the sheriff’s office, appointing a monitor to oversee them. Snow’s rulings were later upheld by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to a slideshow presentation given by budget officials to the supervisors on Monday, the county spent $3.7 million in 2014 on Melendres compliance and anticipates spending $17 million in FY 2015 by the time the county’s fiscal year ends June 30.
Which means, unless the current numbers are revised, the FY 2016 budget will bring the county to a total of $44.5 million allocated for Melendres.
The budget presentation notes that these numbers do not include legal costs.
I reported in April that legal costs in Melendres and U.S. v. Maricopa County, the civil rights lawsuit brought against the MCSO by the U.S. Department of Justice, were up to a total of $14.2 million, of which, about $6.8 million was from attorneys’ billings in Melendres.
Interestingly, as KJZZ recently reported, the county’s FY 2016 adopted budget increased 1 percent over last year’s adopted budget, by around ... $23 million. But it may not be fair to say the budget increased due to Joe.
Much of the $23.8 million increase in 2016 on spending for Melendres is due to reallocating 24 positions in the sheriff’s office to deal with compliance issues regarding the case.
But at the very least, it’s a diversion of resources that did not have to happen.
As part of Arpaio’s proposed settlement in Melendres, he and his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, suggested that the county fund a $350,000 kitty to pay for any claims arising from Arpaio and Sheridan’s defiance of the court’s orders.
10. Prisoners Hanging Themselves In Sheriff Joe’s Jail at Alarming Rate
November 24, 2015
How many people have died in our sheriff’s jails?
Six months ago, on May 4, 2015, I asked a spokesman for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio a simple, if morbid, question: How many body bags?
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has refused to answer. His spokesman, Lieutenant Brandon James, said doing the math would take a few weeks.
It’s been six months.
Searching other databases (the Office of the County Medical Examiner’s and the Office of Risk Management’s, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s) revealed that 157 people have died in Arpaio’s jails.
But that is an estimate, because the truth is that no outside authority keeps track of how many people die from brutality, neglect, disease, bad health, or old age in Arpaio’s jails.
What my research discovered, though, is that people hang themselves in the sheriff’s jail at a rate that dwarfs other county lockups.
Government authorities responsible for the sheriff’s behavior show no alarm, or knowledge, of the dead carted out of the jails — not at the federal level, not at the local level.
How can you prevent abuse, how can you reduce damage claims, how can you prevent the hemorrhaging of tax dollars to lawyers and victims if you don’t track the violence?
No one cares.
But digging into this data raises troubling questions, particularly when compared with jails across America.
Suicide is an all-too-frequent consequence of incarceration.
In jailhouse deaths across the nation, the U.S. Department of Justice notes the following rates of suicide over a three-year period from 2000 to 2002:
• Los Angeles: 11 percent.
• New York: 9 percent.
• Cook County (Chicago): 6 percent.
• Philadelphia: 14 percent.
• Harris County (Houston): 13 percent.
• Dade County (Miami): 6 percent.
From 1996 to 2015, the suicide rate among jail deaths in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lockups was an astounding 24 percent, with 39 of the 157 hanging themselves.
Furthermore, of the 157 deaths listed on the sheriff’s watch on the M.E.’s chart, 34 simply are tagged as having been found dead with no explanation as to cause of death.
More mysteriously, another 39 died in the county hospital without explanation.
That’s 73 deaths — nearly half of all deaths — that county authorities list as “who knows?”
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I understand why Sheriff Arpaio gets away with a procession of body bags gurneyed out of his jail.
The sheriff doesn’t care. The M.E.’s Office doesn’t care. The county Board of Supervisors doesn’t care.
And since 1993, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been bulletproof at the polls.
In the face of so much official neglect — underscored by voters’ ambivalence — Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “My Way” might more accurately be styled: “Our Way.” Michael Lacey