Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 81, of Maricopa County, Arizona, is back in the news again. This time he’s accused of unusual methods of punishment against inmates believed to have desecrated the stars and stripes that hang in prisoners’ cells, reports Fox News.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Apparently, Inmates Have Been Abusing the American Flags in Their Cells
According to Reuters, 38 different inmates have been subjected to bread and water rationing, twice daily. Their official punishment is listed as destroying government property. The sheriff told the news agency:
These inmates have destroyed the American flag that was placed in their cells. Tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel. It’s a disgrace to those who have fought for our country.
Punishment for a first offense of vandalizing a flag lands a seven day stint on the rations, a second offense lasts for 10 days.
2. His Actions Are Being Called a ‘Publicity Stunt’
— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) January 22, 2014
ACLU legal director, Dan Pochoda, has called the action a “publicity stunt.” He adds, “It’s certainly not illegal, but what he is doing is bad policy. It’s just another vindictive policy that has nothing to do with running a good jail system.”
Sheriff Arpaio oversees around 8,300 inmates in his jail system.
3. Jails in Maricopa Have Been Subjected to a Binge of Patriotism
Inmates in the Maricopa County jail system have been subjected to extreme displays of U.S. patriotism in recent months. “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” have been pumped throughout prison cells.
4. He’s Facing a Separate Lawsuit For Racial Profiling
This is not the first controversial issue that Sheriff Arpaio has faced. He’s already facing a lawsuit from the Justice Department over allegations that he and his officers racially profile and target Latinos for arrest. The state of Arizona already has some of the most extreme anti-immigration laws in the country with cops allowed to stop anyone and ask about their immigration status.
5. He’s Been Branded ‘America’s Worst Sheriff’
The New York Times have previously branded Arpaio as “America’s Worst Sheriff.” The paper cited the sheriff’s abysmal record in its editorial:
What has risen on Sheriff Arpaio’s watch: violent crimes (up 69 percent overall from 2004 to 2007, with homicides up 166 percent in those three years), 911 response times, unserved arrest warrants, racist sweeps of Latino neighborhoods, and dollars paid out in budget overruns, overtime and lawsuit settlements.
What has declined: the arrest rate, the number of satellite booking stations, public access to department records, Sheriff Arpaio’s reputation.
The sheriff was born in Massachusetts in 1932 to Italian immigrant parents. He served in the U.S. Army during the 1950s, he was stationed in France. He lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona, with his wife Ava, who he married in 1958. The couple of have two children and four grandchildren.