Thursday, June 19, 2008

If you ask you to choose between a Rapist and an Undocumented Immigrant.

I will choose the Law; The undocumented gardener said Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe blasted at county budget hearing.

A group of labor union members, religious leaders and students took aim at America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff during Thursday's budget hearing by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Former state lawmaker Alfredo Gutierrez was among hundreds of people who turned out to pressure the supervisors about lawsuits against the sheriff and his use of tax money to carry out crime sweeps that have resulted in dozens of illegal immigrants being arrested.

``Common sense ought to visit his brain periodically," said Gutierrez. ``When you have to choose between (arresting) a rapist and a gardener, I think most people would choose the rapist. Sheriff Joe would not. Most people would choose the murderer, Sheriff Joe has not."

Gutierrez added, ``The issue is that the man's anger, the man's hate has overwhelmed his common sense."

Gutierrez specifically mentioned last week's raid on Splashworld, a water theme park where the sheriff said several illegal immigrants were working.

``There's just a total imbalance in terms of what the priorities are to the sheriff," Gutierrez said.

Arpaio showed up at the hearing and told the supervisors, ``We will enforce the laws regardless of what the law is. If they don't like the law, don't come after the sheriff. Come after the county, get the laws changed."

Among Arpaio's critics was Monica Sandschafer, who said the county is facing its biggest economic crisis ever and the sheriff continues to rack up lawsuits.

She said money is being wasted ``defending Arpaio from lawsuits, a lot of money being spent on public relations." Sandschafer said, ``We think that he needs to respect and protect civil rights, not violate them."

While many county departments are being asked to cut budgets and lay off employees, Sandschafer said the sheriff is spending money on crime sweeps targeting illegal immigrants, and other ``frivilous things" like training sessions in Honduras and big offices.

At one point during the hearing, things got out of control when one of the speakers thought he did not get enough time to speak. After a lot of screaming and yelling, many in the audience got up and walked out.

A group of Arpaio supporters and members of the group trying to recall Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon attended the budget hearing.

Most American jails are poorly-funded and dangerous. The Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, California, is typical of US jails. It's supposed to house no more than 688 inmates; but it houses 978. Some inmates are crammed 15 to a room, with no toilets, windows, or water.

It can be worse. In Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio brags that he spends more per day to feed his police dogs than he does to feed the 8,000 prisoners under his control.

Arpaio houses 2,000 prisoners in tents in the desert. In the summer, temperatures soar to 120ÞF (49ÞC). Arpaio's jails have been the subject of lawsuits and federal investigations since the early 1990's. His guards have been found guilty of brutality.

He also set up the first all-women's chain gang in history. The female inmates work as county cemetery gravediggers in the desert sun, burying indigents and dead babies.

Arpaio also created an Internet "JailCam" that showed prisoners being strip-searched, shackled in "restraint chairs," and women using the toilet.

In Arpaio's jails, inmates work seven days a week, are fed only twice a day, and have to pay $10 if they need medical care. The sheriff bought a military tank to assist in drug busts – but investigators say gangs and drug dealers pervade his jails.

In 1996, an inmate named Jeremy Flanders was beaten nearly to death by gang members in Arpaio's tent city jail; the Arizona Court of Appeals recently upheld a jury's damage award that gave Flanders $635,000 of taxpayer's money to compensate him for the injuries, which the court found "could have been prevented" if Arpaio had not been "deliberately indifferent" to existence of violent gangs in his jails

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