Sheriff Joe Arpaio: The Cause of a Defective Agency

by Tina Rhodes

“Find out the cause of this effect,

Or rather say, the cause of this defect,

For this effect defective comes by cause.”

—-William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

There is something rotten deep inside the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), an infection that permeates the entire agency and results in pustules that force the public and the larger justice system to take notice. Rank problems in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s county include too many poorly-explained and poorly-handled inmate deaths, charges of racial discrimination, profiling and harassment, and 6,300 lawsuits that have cost county taxpayers over $50 million and counting.

To put that into perspective, Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston), has had 1/6th as many lawsuits against it over the past 17 years. Now there’s yet another sad and infuriating story now coming out of Arpaio’s jail hellscape…

Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, an illegal immigrant with forged papers, was arrested in 2009 while she was pregnant, and what she says happened to her is a nightmare that no human being should ever have to endure. Here’s a list of her charges:

– They put her in jail while she was in active labor instead of keeping her in the hospital.

– They purposely ignored her cries for help because they were in Spanish and not English (The Justice Department has confirmed that this was a common pattern of behavior for the guards.)

– After being taken back a day later to the hospital to give birth via C-Section, she was not allowed to hold her son or nurse him.

– She was shackled to her hospital bed immediately following the C-Section.

– They took her out of the hospital early before she could be given pain medication and even before the hospital had officially discharged her.

– When taking her out of the hospital, they had her shackled at both the hands and feet. Her attorney said in an interview on KJAZZ  that she was bleeding down over her ankle shackles.

A C-section is major surgery and incredibly painful, and it takes a minimum of 12 weeks of rest to recovery from. The fact that they had her up and walking out of the hospital (without a doctor’s sign off) within hours not only violates hospital rules but may constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ considering she was not given pain medication.

The lawsuit against MCSO was filed on Jan. 21st and one day later U.S. District Court Judge Joe Campbell threw it out of court saying that since she was not shackled during the actual labor, her lawsuit cannot show that a constitutional rights violation occurred.

See, the law says you can’t shackle a woman during labor but says nothing about before or after (though industry practice, even in Arizona Corrections, is to never shackle a pregnant woman at any time unless she is a danger to herself and others). So even though MCSO violated their own industry practices, they weren’t technically violating the law–according to the judge (a well known conservative).

In other words, there was little hope that this case could get past the patriarchal firewall of misogyny in Arizona. Thankfully, that’s what appeals are for, and her attorney plans to do so to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Until then, when will Maricopa County residents realize that this “effect defective comes by cause” and the cause is the guy at the helm of the rotting body that is MCSO.

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