Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Crime And REAL Punishment

Not many of us are familiar with the elected Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Joe Arpaio! But does he have any lessons to teach us about punishing criminals in a way that makes them less likely to reoffend?

Sheriff Arpaio keeps getting elected, over and over again, because he punishes criminal activity in a way that marries with his local public's desire to deter crime and not to have to pay excessively for punishment of criminal activity.

Following his election, Sheriff Arpaio decided not to build another expensive jail complex so created the "tent city jail", (essentially a tented village surrounded by barbed wire). He banned smoking and pornographic magazines in jail and he also took away inmates weightlifting equipment, explaining his reasons by saying: "They're in jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault innocent people when they leave."

To keep convicted criminals occupied, he started chain gangs to use inmates to do free work on county and city projects - saving taxpayer's money. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only allows the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel, he replied: "So these morons will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs." Coffee is no longer served to prisoners because it has zero nutritional value and is therefore a waste of taxpayer money. When the inmates complained, he told them: "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."

When temperatures rose to record levels in Phoenix in June 2007, the Associated Press reported: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed wire surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts. On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing pink boxer shorts were overheard chatting in the tents, where temperatures reached 128 degrees. "This is hell. It feels like we live in a furnace," said Ernesto Gonzales, an inmate for 2 years with 10 more to go. "It's inhumane." Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who makes his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. "Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for parole, only to go out and commit more crimes so they can come back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things many taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves."

The same day he is reported to have told inmates who were complaining of the heat in the tents: "It's between 120 to 130 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers live in tents, they have to walk all day in the sun wearing full battle gear and they get shot at, and they have not committed any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!"

If all prisons were like Sheriff Joe Arpaio's I wonder whether we might just experience a lot less crime and I am sure we would not be in the current position of running out of prison spaces.

Sheriff Joe is accountable to the residents of Maricopa County and has recently been re-elected for an unprecedented fourth 4 year term. His ethos seems to be that local people want to see criminals punished in a way that deters criminal activity, he does allow political correctness to interfere with his work and he challenges the sort of crazy rules we suffer from as a result of the European Convention on Human Rights. Basically he wants a deal for his law abiding public which is fair on them given they are paying for the criminal activity of others.

I wonder whether the British public would decide to elect people like Joe Arpaio if we allowed to elect our local Chief of Police? It certainly seems to me that we have a lot to learn from people like Sheriff Arpaio and should look to some of his ideas to help redress the balance between taxpayer and criminal.

Thanks Joe, you have given us a lot to consider and shown us we may have a lot to learn!

You can read more about Sheriff Joe Arpaio at:

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