“America’s Toughest Sheriff,” or a Sad Abuser of Power?
Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs, but the moment you take government office, you represent something much bigger than yourself.
Unfortunately for people like Joe Arpaio, who has been the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona since 1993, elected office is simply a means to force his skewed personal beliefs on over three million citizens despite countless complaints, federal investigations, racial profiling, abuses of power, and millions in wasted tax dollars.
Arpaio represents the ugliest side of America– its institutionalized racism, bigotry, and prejudice, as well as the legal loopholes that allow them to exist and harm people well into the 21st century.
As sheriff of the United States’s fourth-largest county (according to the 2010 census, its population of 3,817,117 made it more populous than twenty-three states), Arpaio’s time in power has been described as a “reign of terror,” and once you read these horrifying facts, it’s no surprise why people feel that way.
These are just a few of the disappointing anecdotes that will make you wonder, how is this man still an elected official?
One of Arpaio’s most infamous policies has to do with his long history of unconstitutional jail conditions. Specifically, you may remember news coverage of prisoners in Maricopa County being forced to wear pink underwear.
A hallmark of Arpaio’s rule, Maricopa County prisoners’ pink underwear has become a symbol of the emasculation forced upon them, a sad manifestation of our society’s belief that a color can hold such significance. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) even sold pink boxers as a publicity stunt and fundraiser, complete with the sheriff’s logo and “Go Joe” printed on them.
Nowhere are Arpaio’s questionable jail conditions more criticized than in Tent City, an outdoor extension of the Maricopa County Jail that erected in 1993. Arpaio himself has described Tent City as a “concentration camp,” an outdoor hell where temperatures regularly reach over 110 degrees (with a record of at least 145). Amidst complaints, Arpaio has told prisoners that American soldiers in Iraq have to deal with worse heat while wearing full body armor, and they haven’t even committed crimes.
In 1997, Amnesty International published a report that declared the conditions in Tent City as neither an “adequate or humane alternative to housing inmates,” yet the outdoor prison still stands.