Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost yet another legal battle as a unanimous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Arpaio to fix jails that do not meet constitutional minimums when it comes to food quality and housing conditions. Arpaio had appealed a 2008 ruling that mandated Maricopa County to change the conditions in the jails under his supervision immediately.
In a 2008 trial, plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that the Sheriff’s Office fed pre-trial detainees moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food. The trial also established that the prison cells these detainees were held in were hot enough to endanger their health.
The district court ruling required Sheriff Arpaio to address the severe overcrowding in his prisons (a result of his equally controversial immigrant sweeps) and to ensure that all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care. The ruling further required that all detainees be given access to all medications prescribed by correctional medical staff, be given access to exercise and to sinks, toilets, toilet paper and soap, in addition to being served food that meets or exceeds the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines.
The ruling clearly establishes that unconscionable treatment of literally thousands of pre-trial detainees will not stand, no matter how “tough” this sheriff thinks he is. Quite simply the Constitution applies to everyone, including those who are awaiting trial and adjudication.
Arpaio continues to refuse to cooperate with federal investigators in connection with civil rights lawsuits filed against him and his office. He also faces charges of surveilling potential political rivals.
photo courtesy of cactusbillaz via Flickr