Arizona Sheriff's Mugshot Contest Humiliates Criminals

Maressa Brown

Sheriff Joe ArpaioWe interrupt your regular broadcast to bring you ... more loads of crazy being churned out in the oh-so-compassionate state of Arizona! This time the brouhaha can be attributed to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is already quite well-known for his antics. So much so that he's been called "America's Toughest Sheriff." But his latest "tough" shtick kind of makes my stomach turn. See, Arpaio has started posting online mug shots of people who are arrested, asking people to vote for the photo they find most amusing.

He claims that putting the mugshots online and allowing a mass audience to view them is a way to get leads for investigations. He says:

I want people to turn to see if their neighbor's been arrested.

While it may seem like Arpaio's rationale for this gimmick is pragmatic in some ways, I'd venture to guess it has a lot more to do with the fact that the guy has a thing for publicly humiliating both potential criminals and confirmed convicts ...

In the past, he's been known to enforce Sue Sylvester-like shenanigans in his jurisdiction. For instance, he once made inmates eat green bologna and, another time, required them to wear pink underwear or striped jail suits a la the Beagle Boys. Once Arpaio put dogs in the cooled jail cells while prisoners were sent to tents in the heat.

It may sound like a funny cartoon, but I'm not sure any of these punishments are really appropriate. Just because someone ended up in jail doesn't mean they should be subjected to even "playful" harassment.

Furthermore, the people Arpaio is going after with his latest scheme aren't necessarily even criminals! Just because you're arrested doesn't mean you're guilty. That means some people who may be perfectly innocent are having their photos displayed on a public, likely permanent forum. As a result, it's possible they could be subjected to discrimination or even just dirty looks from people in their community -- for YEARS!

If you still don't think Arpaio is tempting the limits with this shame campaign, then how's this food for thought: He actually tried to see if he could stream video of inmates, but federal courts nixed that one, thank goodness.

It's clear that Arpaio isn't posting mugshots online in order to get to the bottom of crime. It isn't necessary, either. This inhumane public shame game just feels like a mockery of the law that gives arrested individuals TMZ/Charlie Sheen-ish 15 minutes of "fame."

Do you think Arpaio's 'Mugshot of the Day' contest is necessary and/or appropriate?

Image via Sandy Huffaker/Getty

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