Feathered Bastard

SHERIFF LAWBREAKER: Joe Arpaio's Jails Lose Accreditation Again, and Again, and Again

How much is this egomaniac gonna cost us in the longrun? The county'll have bupkis before it's all over with.

Who shot down the sheriff (metaphorically speaking), and for the second time, no less? The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which as of Friday rejected an appeal of an earlier decision yanking Joe's jails' accreditation. In September the same commission said Joe's gulags don't meet national standards. The county pleaded for a second chance. So NCCHC did another inspection in November. And surprise, surprise, Arpaio's facilities were once more found lacking.

In a letter received today by Correctional Health Services Director Betty Adams from NCCHC President Ed Harrison, Harrison lets the county, and Joe, have it, right between the pupils:

"In response to your request for reconsideration of the decision to withdraw NCCHC accreditation from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, a focused survey was conducted on November 24-25, 2008. We did not find any evidence that would warrant a reversal of the prior decision of the NCCHC Accreditation Committee. Withdrawal of accreditation is affirmed."

You can read Harrison's entire letter, here

Harrison then informs the county that it may further appeal the decision, or reapply for NCCHC accreditation. According to a press release issued late today by the Board of Supervisors, Adams expressed disappointment, and stated that "county officials are weighing an appeal but are also considering seeking accreditation from another agency."

So, like, what does this mean? After all, everyone knows Joe's jails blow. Hell, that's what the guy runs for sheriff on. But there's this little thing called state law. Since 2003, Arizona's sheriffs have had to submit proof to the Arizona Department of Health Services that the jails they use meet national standards. It's a little complex, so if you want more detail, read my former collegue John Dickerson's October 7 article on the subject. Dickerson details the relationships between CHS, the sheriff, AZDHS, the BOS, etc.

What's really weird is this statement in the BOS press release that, "CHS is not required to be accredited by NCCHC or by any particular body. If the county terminated its relationship with NCCHC, it would seek inspection with another outside agency with medical standards."

Sorry, guys, but the former Soviet Union has long since collapsed. Otherwise, I'm sure you could have found some decrepit commie institute there that would have certified the MCSO's medieval facilities. The BOS is definitely parsing its words carefully, but the bottom line is that state law requires the sheriff to show proof of accreditation. In fact, if you're having trouble finding the statute, Supes, you can read it at this link, and I quote:

A facility that provides medical and health services to inmates who are confined in a county jail. The sheriff shall annually evaluate the facility to determine if it meets the applicable standards that are adopted by either a national corrections commission on health care or an American correctional association or the sheriff shall annually submit the facility to a similar separate inspection by an outside agency with medical standards. The sheriff must submit the certificate of accreditation or proof of successful inspection to the department annually and keep a copy of the certificate or proof of inspection.

As Dickerson pointed out in his October piece, the loss of accreditation will likely mean more payouts by the county on Arpaio lawsuits, which have so far cost taxpayers more than $43 million.

"Additionally, national accreditation has been a first line of defense in lawsuits brought by individual inmates against Arpaio," wrote Dickerson in the piece. "With jail accreditation gone, such lawsuits (filed in both county and federal courts) have a better chance of securing hearings or judgments."

See, it's Joe's world, we just end up paying for it. Like when he splurges on a two-day military-style sweep of the west Valley, and arrests a mere handful of illegals. Or when he thumbs his nose at making sure his jails meet a minuimum level of professionalism, as mandated by state law.

So for all those Joe fans out there, hope you're made of money, because Arpaio's got at least four more years to go, and we haven't hit bottom yet.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons