Judge demands better conditions in Maricopa County Jail, Arizona; both sides claim victory

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Maricopa County shown on a map of Arizona
Image: David Benbennick.

A judge has ruled that the conditions in Maricopa County Jail, Arizona, which is run by the controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio, are unsanitary, and must be changed.

The ruling stated that some of the actions in the jail were unconstitutional, in particular, the court stated that that inmates had a constitutional right to be given space for outdoor recreation and be kept at a reasonable level of health.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hailed the decision as a victory. "In a sweeping rebuff of an attempt by Arpaio to terminate a federal consent decree mandating that he maintain conditions at the Maricopa County Jail that meet constitutional minimums, Judge Neil Wake ordered that jail officials ensure that all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care, that they be given uninterrupted access to all medicines prescribed by correctional medical staff, that they be given access to toilets, sinks, toilet paper and soap and that they be served food that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines," they said in a press release.

"Judge Wake's decision should serve as a reminder that even a man who brags about being the toughest sheriff in America has to abide by the Constitution."

Despite this, Arpaio also claimed victory. In contradiction to the ACLU's claims, he stated that the changes ordered were only minor. He also described the ruling as a recommendation, not an order.

The controversial sheriff also stated that “I became Sheriff well over a decade after this case was first filed. Still I have always maintained that we run a safe and constitutionally adequate jail system. This judgment reinforces the excellent work being performed by the detention staff and we all are always committed to improving the jail system wherever possible.”

Sources

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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