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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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ACLU Warns County It’s Liable for Arpaio’s Actions

PHOENIX (CN) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio has decided to segregate convicted illegal immigrants in his Tent City jail, prompting the ACLU of Arizona to ask that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors ensure that Latino inmates are not denied basic rights.

A state judge found conditions in Arpaio's jails unconstitutional in 2002, the ACLU wrote in its Feb. 9 letter, citing Flanders v. Maricopa County. Conditions can surpass 100 degrees in Tent City in the summer and have failed to meet "medical and mental health delivery, food service and nutrition" standards, the ACLU wrote. The court ruled in the Flanders case "that Sheriff Arpaio was 'deliberately indifferent' to the inmate's [sic] Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment," according to the ACLU.

"(T)he sheriff's present decision to house the inmates in a separate area in Tent City has been reviewed by County Attorney (Andrew) Thomas and determined to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment," the ACLU wrote. "(T)he County is legally responsible for his [Arpaio's] actions in this area and liable for all resulting harm. ... Criticism of the sheriff alone will not absolve the County of its responsibility; inhumane and illegal practices cannot be allowed to continue. ... as a minimum, the Board cannot encourage the sheriff's harmful policies. For example, as state in the Amended Complaint in the racial profiling litigation, 'in the face of large scale criticisms' that his so-called crime sweeps target Latinos for minor traffic violations - and not serious crimes - the past chair of this body publicly praised these operations as 'good law enforcement.'"

The Board of Supervisors was to meet Monday to consider it "the responsibility of Maricopa County for the actions of Sheriff Arpaio in transporting and housing persons confined in the county jails," the ACLU wrote. "This letter sets forth our concerns on this topic."

Arpaio is the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America." His policies that target Latinos and humiliate county inmates have drawn nationwide press coverage.

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