Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Is He Really America’s Toughest Sheriff?

Or, is Joe Arpaio simply one of the best self-promoters of all time? Think about it, how many books could you sell if you had this famous lawman’s platform? Certainly, not everyone agrees with Sheriff Joe’s policies, but the man sure knows how to pitch what he’s selling…himself.

But, is Joe Arpaio really qualified to sit at the helm of the fourth largest sheriff’s office in the country (over 3,000 employees and over 10,000 inmate in his jail system)? He sure has a very impressive resume.

According to Arpaio’s website, he has an extensive military and law enforcement background, including stints in the U.S. Army, local police departments, and the DEA, where he ended his federal tenure as head of Arizona’s branch of that agency. He became sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992, and has been there since, having been re-elected for five, four-year terms.

Let’s have a closer look at the man who forces inmates to wear pink underwear and socks. He also issues them pink towels and washcloths, and his deputies use pink restraints when shackling county prisoners. Actually, outfitting crooks in attire that’s on the sweet side of red just might be a stroke of genius. Why? Because, I imagine it’s a bit difficult to carry on as a badass gangbanger when you’re dressed like somebody’s kid sister on her way to a Barbi-themed sleepover.

However, the pink underwear thing is really minor when you consider Sheriff Joe’s other headline-making policies. Why do people think he’s so tough? How about these facts, for starters:

– Sheriff Arpaio forces convicted prisoners to sleep in tents where temperatures have reached 138 degrees. Arpaio told his prisoners to stop complaining, stating soldiers in Iraq are forced to live in tents where the temperatures are 120 degrees, and they haven’t committed any crimes.

– Arpaio removed cable TV from his jail. A court order forced him to reinstate it due to federal law. So, Arpaio complied, but only connected The Disney Channel and The Weather Channel. When asked why The Weather Channel the sheriff replied, “So they’ll know just how hot it’s going to be when they’re working on my chain gangs.”

– Male and female prisoners each work on Arpaio’s chain gangs. The sheriff started the female chain gang because he didn’t want to be sued for discrimination.

– Inmate meals cost the sheriff’s department less than $.40 cents each. His prisoners are served only two meals each day, often featuring green bologna. The prisoner’s are required to pay for their food. Arpaio touted, “It costs more to feed our police dogs than our inmates. The dogs never committed a crime, and they’re working for a living.”

_ Inmates are not allwed to have coffee or cigarettes. When they complained, Arpaio said, “This isn’t the Ritz Carlton. If you don’t like it, don’t come back.” Cutting out coffee alone saved nearly $95,000 per year.

– Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe’s bailiwick, used to spend $18 million dollars per year to run the animal control department. Officials wanted a change, so they placed the animal control division under Arpaio’s command. The sheriff revamped the entire department, staffing it with prisoners who now run the operation. They feed and care for each animal, and they even teach classes to prospective pet owners on how to properly care for a pet. The department now operates on an annual budget of less then $3 million, a savings of $15 million each year. And, the inmates are doing something worthwhile, instead of spending their time playing dominoes or spades. Sheriff Joe’s animal shelter is a “no kill” facility. The goal is to find owners for each of the animals.

But, Sheriff Arpaio is probably best known for his relentless campaign against people who’ve entered the U.S. illegally. The sheriff’s policies regarding illegal immigration have definitely ruffled the feathers of many people. Actually, feather-ruffling is a rather mild term considering the number and type of complaints and accusations against Sheriff Arpaio. His accusers claim that he has abused his powers as sheriff, illegally violating people’s constitutional rights.

Recently, the Arizona sheriff found himself testifying at a deposition regarding a racial-profiling suit against him and his department. Until this hearing I don’t believe I’d ever heard Sheriff Arpaio back down from, deny, or waiver in his beliefs and commitments. However, when he took the stand several days ago, suddenly the Toughest Sheriff in America began to stutter like Porky Pig. In fact, his testimony began to sound a great deal like that of George W. Bush’s  former sidekick, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

What happened to the sheriff who wasn’t afraid of anything, or anybody? Where’d he go?

While I don’t always approve of the sheriff’s policies, I have certainly respected him for standing firm on his beliefs. His sudden lack of backbone and convenient lapse of memory was very surprising.

10 replies
  1. Myles
    Myles says:

    He’s going after ILLEGAL ALIENS! WAKE UP AMERICA! They do not have civil rights, they are ILLEGAL ALIENS! I dont know about the rest of you, but I pay my taxes! I speak English! I am registered for civil service! I pay into the system, not take from it! Question: Why are illegal aliens always so proud of their national heritage, yet they refuse to live in their own nation? Stand firm Joe!

  2. JanW
    JanW says:

    I’m from Arizona and left there not long after Joe took office. I never voted for the man. Perhaps he has started to believe the ‘press’ from his own ***3 person*** PR department! Talk about hubris. Chooks are coming home to roost, though.

    There seems to be some retribution taking place now. This story is dated 8 January 2010:

    Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas angered many in the legal community when they filed a federal RICO (racketeering) lawsuit against many of their political opponents, including county administrators, local attorneys, and judges. Arpaio and Thomas even charged a judge who had ruled against them with bribery. Smith and Wilson were included in the racketeering lawsuit but have not been criminally charged. This might have been one step too far.
    Dawn Teo: Sheriff Arpaio Subject of Federal Grand Jury Inquiry (20 January 2010)

    Joe doesn’t like being challenged, does he? I wonder if he’ll end up in one of those “fancy jails” he so despises? I wonder how many times he’ll call on his own constitutional rights to be upheld? ::chuckle::

  3. SZ
    SZ says:


    The illegal alien status is hard topic. Here are some clips from other sites. The fact is, once on US soil, there are rights:

    The Bill of Rights applies to everyone, even illegal immigrants. So an immigrant, legal or illegal, prosecuted under the criminal code has the right to due process, a speedy and public trial, and other rights protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.


    But immigration proceedings are matters of administrative law, not criminal law. (As a result, the consequence of violating your immigration status is not jail but deportation.)

  4. Norm
    Norm says:

    I am not a fan. His lack of knowledge of the 4th Amendment appalls me. An enforcement officer without a rudimentary knowledge of search and seizure law boggles the mind.

    I don’t mind tough, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan to keep them from coming back. The question I have is the recidivism rate lower in his county compared to other similar counties?

  5. Julie Robinson
    Julie Robinson says:

    Actually, after looking at the video and hearing the questions he was asked, I think he knew the media was trying to trap him into incriminating himself, so that the media’s liberal co-harts, the government and other like-minded organizations could get rid of him. Sounded like he was imitating one of their own ‘fearless’ leaders—Bill Clinton.

  6. Julie Robinson
    Julie Robinson says:

    First of all, if he’s ruffling the feathers of illegals, then that’s fine; They do NOT have any constitutional rights to begin with! Secondly, prisoners should be thankful they have something to eat, even if it’s green bologna. Also, the pink underwear might be considered minor, but it’s a subtle yet powerful way to strip them of their masculinity—like shaving the beard of an extremist Muslim.

    So the question is, which is more effective as a deterrent to future crimes by the criminal?-Spending time in a tent jail like Arpaio’s, or rehabilitation centers. I vote for the tent jail.

    Maybe he is discouraged, but I hope he gets back to being a role model for being tough on crime. We need him.

  7. SZ
    SZ says:

    I too would like to see more Sheriff Arpaio jails. Except for the bad bologna I agree. All the coffee, card games and cable make jail a country club. Especially if you commit murder, why should they get these luxuries ? The man the killed does not have them. If first timers spend time in a jail like that, it should be a better deterrent. It would be interesting to see the percentages of repeat offenders from his jails compared to the country clubs out there.

  8. Shawntel
    Shawntel says:

    I’ve always been a steadfast believer in Sheriff Joe…what DID happen? Is he finally feeling the pressure from the constant criticism? While I may not agree with a few policies, I certainly believe that his recidivism (sp?) rate speaks for itself. I’d like to see more Sheriffs like him.

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