President Donald Trump has pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Lost in all the ressentiment from mainstream politicians and liberal journalists this pardon was meant to produce–and the gleeful spite it was meant to engender amongst Trump’s nativist and white nationalist supporters–is the degree to which Arpaio’s time as sheriff of Maricopa County was more or less a stateside version of a CIA black site combined with a tort attorney’s wet dream.
Here we compile ten of the very worst–though by no means all–instances of Arpaio’s unchecked cruelty, waste and abuse.
1. In Arpaio’s own words, his infamous tent city jail was a “concentration camp.” During a press conference in front an Italian pride organization, a leading credit to the Italian race wonders out loud when Arpaio will get around to building a concentration camp for “illegals” because something something borders. Arpaio responds:
“I already have a concentration camp, it’s called ‘Tent City.'”
2. People “mysteriously” died in Arpaio’s jails at an extremely high rate. How high? Nearly double the next highest rate.
3. Arpaio’s jailers broke an already paraplegic man’s neck apparently because he asked to use a catheter so he could use the restroom. That man was originally arrested because he was in possession of one gram of marijuana.
4. During one particularly racialized bit of preening for the cameras, Arpaio appeared to segregate Black, Hispanic and Latino prisoners, put them in black-and-white-striped uniforms reminiscent of Jim Crow chain gangs, and then marched them to their own special area ringed by an electric fence. Most of the prisoners’ uniforms clarified that they were “UNSENTENCED”–which means they hadn’t been convicted of any crime.
5. Damon Dreckmeier was so roughed up by Arpaio’s jailers that blood poured out of his mouth and rectum for hours on end. He and other inmates pleaded for help all the while–no one listened. Dreckmeier was eventually rushed to the hospital and Maricopa County was forced to pay in excess of $300,000 in medical bills. His crime? He used a fake ID.
6. Multiple female inmates essentially underwent forced abortions while in Arpaio’s jails. Joe Arpaio claims to be pro-life.
7. A man after Trump’s own heart, Arpaio falsely arrested journalists who covered his brutal escapades a little too closely for the snowflake sheriff’s liking. They sued and Maricopa County had to shell out $3.75 million.
8. Joe Arpaio didn’t seem to care much about sex crimes occurring in Maricopa County. Like at all. Hundreds of sexual assault and child-molestation cases were allegedly ignored and mishandled by his sheriff’s office while Arpaio chased the spotlight. Arpaio’s meticulously cultivated tough guy image didn’t extend to harsh treatment for sex criminals. Wonder why? Maybe it’s because one of his “Sheriff’s Posse” members was a big fan of child porn.
9. In another Trumpian fit of misdirection, instead of using time and money to go after people who rape children, Arpaio spent taxpayer dollars on sending an investigator to Hawaii to look for President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
10. And as ridiculous as it may sound, Arpaio apparently faked an assassination plot against himself. Then he arrested the man he framed. That man then spent four years in Arpaio’s hellish jail awaiting trial for the made-up crime. His family eventually sued and Maricopa County was forced to pay over $1 million in damages.
As horrific as all this may be, let’s remember Arpaio’s Mengelian approach to justice is completely at odds with by-now quaint concepts of the Rule of Law. This is a man who believes jails are supposed to serve as places of punishment. Of course, that’s not true. Jails are supposed to house the accused as they await trial. In the ill-named American justice system, prisons are the places where punishment is supposed to be meted out. Therefore, the scenes described above fit quite nicely into a worldview which upends our popular–though fanciful–notions of law and order.
For Sheriff Joe, it’s always been guilty until proven innocent. And guilt, in Arpaio’s world, incurs nothing shy of torture. His worldview is shared by many, and aside from obvious historical overtones, is distinctly American. If Trump’s pardon (or Arpaio’s record) is a shock, then one would do well to pay a lot more attention to U.S. history and present.
[image via screengrab]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.