The Pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio


Very often this story seems to center around Arpaio's enforcement of illegal immigration laws.  Law enforcement personnel saying of this man that “He was just doing his job” is incorrect. No, he wasn't. It was just as much his job to look after those he was given the authority to care for. Pardoning someone for bad behavior does not mean they didn't commit a crime. Trump's pardon does not “vindicate” him at all. Let me be clear, I do not disagree with him going after illegal immigrants.

I am an advocate for prisoner's rights in the United States however, especially after we began using jails as holding facilities for people with mental health problems. Jails are for people who have either committed very small infractions or for those who are awaiting processing through the court system. You can end up in jail for not paying parking tickets. Does that mean you should be subjected to 120- degree heat in the desert of Phoenix, Arizona until your bail hearing? I don't think so. There should be no stigma for having been in jail because you can also be innocent. It's just a holding place until that is determined. Therefore if you judge yourself as “good” based on the shortcomings of others who happen to end up in a jail then you may end up surprised when you meet your maker.

Arpaio's only job was to catch those accused of breaking the law, keep inmates in the jail, keep them alive, and transport them to court. At this, he failed miserably.  He was breaking laws himself and encouraging others to do so as well. I don't know if he's a racist but the majority of people who have met him say he is. Based on those reports in my view, he's not "tough". He's just another bully. My concerns with him have to do with "Tent City" and what has been reported there. See also: Inhumanity Has A Price (2007 Article Phoenix New Times).

There is a catchy little phrase that is often used by law enforcement/corrections personnel “Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.” I don't think anyone really knows who the quoted author (anonymous) is but the word “time” insinuates a jail or prison and they began somewhere around the 1500's. So, I'll say it's maybe been used as far back as that. Even further back and spoken by someone with a little more influence than anonymous is Matthew 7:12 “In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets.” See also, Luke 6:31. Yes, there is the "Eye for an eye" passages but those who follow them have not yet evolved. In other words, finish the book. Therefore, with regard to the various laws concerning the housing of prisoners that Arpaio broke, my hope is that he has learned from his own confinement if he was confined at all. Although I suspect if he was it was probably a very different experience for him. Lacking that, the conviction by his peers and subsequent loss of the election might serve for him to think about his actions. 

Those in law enforcement should not consider Arpaio a hero or someone to aspire to be like. He honestly gave your profession a bad reputation in the eyes of the general public, you know the people you have sworn to protect? Those people had to pay for all the lawsuits that he is directly responsible for. When I mention the lawsuits, I am not talking about the ones derived from the loss of the prisoner's lives specifically (something along 24 million dollars I believe). That was only the half of it. Do you think prisoners just go to jail and have no contact with the public? That the public is no longer affected by them? Some of these lawsuits weren't brought by the prisoners or their families at all. Lawyers go into jails and have contact with inmates in order to provide legal services when they go to court. Guards have contact with prisoner's and they go home to their families. Prisoner's sometimes have to go to hospitals or health officials need to go into the jail. If an inmate contracts a disease due to the poor conditions in a facility, those diseases can affect the public. That is what happened here. 

Now, with regard to jails and prisons as a “deterrent” to crime. Do you think that people wake up one day and say to themselves “I think I will become an addict.” or “Today is the day I will have a mental health crisis.” or even "Boy, I'm just dying to go to jail."? A lot of people who end up in jail have already experienced and lived through bad parenting, poor health care, lack of regular food, sexual abuse and beatings by loved ones over the course of sometimes decades. They are battling demons a lot of people can't even conceive of. These days we call those Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE's). Those children have a very high incidence of going to jail. Most would call them "victims" when they are young, but then when they get a little older people like Arpaio will call them "garbage" and that is somehow OK to do?

Do you really think you can build a corrections system that is worse than what they have already endured? Possibly even Arpaio's jail wasn't that bad in some people's minds, but bad conditions forced on prisoner's just reassures them that no one cares and that all of humanity is the same. Anyway, jails deter nothing, but if inmates learn the above lesson from being inside one, then why should they care about a society that would allow others to treat them that way when they get out?

Prisons are an educational opportunity for the certain authorities to examine why crimes are committed and develop programs that might prevent them. They are also for the prisoner to reflect upon their actions and take measured steps to change. It is after that we that hope they get out and sometimes they will never get out for the safety of the public. There is no position in the United States Corrections System for a "Punisher" except for I suppose, those who administer the death penalty (which I also don't agree with). Sure sentencing is handed down by judges and is based on laws, but the loss of freedom and other rights is the punishment (again, except for the death penalty). Nowhere in those laws does it say that corrections officials have the right to do whatever they want to inmates. Uniforms do not give people rights like that. Nor does having shiny pieces of metal on them. Nor does a covering over your face. At least not here in the United States it doesn't. That's what our service members fight and die for. They fight against tyranny and for the protections of our citizens. Citizens are a constitutionally protected class in or outside of a jail and due process is one right you don't lose. Also, these protections are not lost upon conviction. So, if you are seeking a "Punisher" position, there are other countries you may apply to. Here we have guards. That's what they do. They guard. Sure you could go before a disciplinary committee if there is a problem and sometimes the inmate may receive more time, or a more restrictive indoor housing unit or loss of privileges but no one is supposed to lay hands on anyone unless there are extreme circumstances.

Here is another thing to consider. Most people think that prisoner's stay in jails and prisons because they can't get out. This notion is simply not true and it's especially not true in a jail. It's actually rather arrogant to think that way. So why do they stay? Even bad parents teach their children to respect their authority. So as young children, we are conditioned to follow authorities, rule of law and societal expectations. Most of us are followers and we pick and choose from these conventions. That is why they stay.  We are conditioned to think that way. Just like, theoretically it is not a law enforcement officer who decides whether a member of the public get's shot by him or her. It's up to the person whom they encounter.

Upon occasion, a leader is imprisoned and sometimes a higher authority guides them to right wrongs even within the walls of a corrections facility. At the University of New Mexico, I worked with a former guard who was witness to the 1980 riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico. If he is alive today, he can tell you prisoner's do not have to get out to affect change both inside and outside of those walls, and yes they can get out. See also Dwight DuranDuran Consent Decree, and Ebook: The Devil's Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising  Arpaio's jail was a time bomb.

All of this said I do not have a problem with Trump pardoning Arpaio or his enforcement of illegal immigration laws. We need to enforce of those laws. We need to know who is coming in and out of our country and why. Aside from terrorists, there are still organized groups that take children as slaves and/or exploit them for sex. This is still acceptable behavior in some cultures. When these people work in our country, they sometimes find employment in trusted positions such as coaching, teaching, etc. 

I once had a mother come to me because she had found that her young daughter had been having conversations with a man and when she questioned her about him, he deleted his profile. She then found out that her daughter had been talked into sending him nude pictures. She tried to report it to the local sheriff, who brushed it off because she couldn't provide the profile and because he just thought of it as a teenager thing. I was able to find an older profile he had on another social media platform with the same pictures he had posted to Facebook. This enabled her to go back to local law enforcement who still did nothing. We ended up contacting Homeland Security who identified him. He was here from Puerto Rico working in a teaching position at a college. When this woman's daughter was interviewed by Homeland Security, she found out that he had been taking her out of school and that he was a member of a pornographic syndicate. Her daughter had been days away from being carted off through the Mexican border.

When it comes to law enforcement, criminal justice, and corrections, there are people and there are systems. Arpaio showed us a bad example of human behavior and he was a subpar administrator. If Trump can pardon that, it's fine by me. We have given him the authority to do so and I respect that. Personally, I would not associate myself with Arpaio's views but who am I after all? Just a vote. PS: No, I'm not a Democrat.
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