Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas

by Donna Pendergast

Love him, hate him or indifferent, one thing is for certain: it's hard to ignore him.

Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in the country, is back in the news. The 77-year-old top cop at the Maricopa Sheriff's Department has never been one to steer away from controversy. Even his most ardent fans will admit that he gravitates toward the front page like the three wise men toward a star.

Since his first election in 1996, Arpaio has been a source of controversy and media attention for his MR. GRINCH-like approach to running the Maricopa County, Arizona, jail. Of the firm belief that a jail is not a country club, Arpaio has initiated a number of operating procedures that have earned him fans and foes.

His more controversial moves include re-establishing chain gangs for males and females, and forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, handcuffs and socks, certain that teasing worse than RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER endured will have a future deterrent effect
 on offenders. He also cut his food bill by reducing the inmate meal plan from three meals a day to two, and he pared down his per-meal cost to under 40 cents by introducing the bologna sandwich as standard fare. That's just the tip of the iceberg. He banned coffee, smoking, pornographic magazines and unrestricted TV in the jail. He created tent cities to handle the jail overload. When a federal court order required cable TV in the jail, he hooked it up but only allowed The Weather and Disney channels.

When temperatures reached an unrelenting 120 degrees in the tent city, Arpaio commented to a complaining inmate that the troops in Iraq sleep in tents in similar temperatures -- while wearing heavy gear. He did allow the inmates to strip down to their pink undies to help weather the heat as they probably prayed LET IT SNOW and drifted off to uncomfortable sleep dreaming of a WINTER WONDERLAND.

As it turns out, the tough guy has a soft spot and that soft spot is Christmas music, yes Christmas music, especially anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Tidings of comfort and joy make Sheriff Joe happy, and he's darn determined to make his inmates enjoy them as much as he does. They will have a HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS if jolly Joe has anything to say about it. There will be no BLUE CHRISTMAS in Maricopa County on joyful Joe's watch.

For the second year in a row, jocund Joe has been piping "Christmas" music into the third largest jail system in the country nonstop twelve hours a day throughout the holiday season. It's enough to make the nearly 8,000 inmates pray LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH and long for a SILENT NIGHT. Mind you, judicious Joe's song selection is culturally diverse and multi-ethnic. Holiday music from all countries and all faiths are included on his playlist. You are as likely to hear FELIZ NAVIDAD or a selection by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as you are GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER. Since very few of jovial Joe's charges are likely to be HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, he has a captive audience for his onslaught of holiday cheer. If you don't like holiday music, it must make the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (or however long jubilant Joe deems the holiday season to be) seem very long indeed.

Six separate lawsuits have been brought by inmates over the last two years to halt the noel noise on grounds that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that it forces inmates to participate in religious celebrations. The last of these lawsuits was dismissed by the court last week, a fact celebrated by joyous Joe in a red and green press release. So jocular Joe can GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN and in the jail as well.

As a final note from all of us here at Women in Crime Ink, WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Happy New Year.

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to represent the position,views or opinion of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.


Dennis Kearns said...

Feliz Navidad.
Michigan could use a man like Sheriff Joe to help with the deficits and the crime.

Pat Brown said...

Merry Christmas, Donna, and that post made me smile...I love Sheriff Joe! I think it is high time we change all prison atmosphere...get rid of the tough guy stuff. I think we should eliminate rough sports and weight rooms and only have yoga and table tennis. Television should be ought and the library should contain only carefully selected fine books. The surroundings should resemble a monastary, not a gangbanger's clubhouse. And the inmates shouldn't be in charge.

Happy Holidays to all our readers!

shthar said...

He dont help out on deficits, but he does help out on subsidising local attorneys fees.

California Girl said...

I have lived in AZ before and love Sheriff Joe. He hasn't done anything cruel or unusual to the people in the jails. He has merely lowered the attractiveness of being in prison. Its not a country club; its where you go for punishment. To expect the same things you can have on the outside is absurd.

Anonymous said...

We need to make jail a place people do not want to go or return to. The fact they have to ban porn, smoking, coffee, and restrict cable TV is ridiculous. Go, Joe -- keep up the good work.

Levi said...

I like Sherrif Joe! He is no nonsense! Great Holiday post Donna!

Hope everyone has a happy new year!