Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Orders Sheriff Arpaio To Fix Unconstitutional Conditions In Maricopa County Jail

October 13, 2010

Ruling In ACLU Lawsuit Affirms District Court Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

PHOENIX – Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz. is required to abide by a federal district court order mandating that he fix unconstitutional conditions in the Maricopa County Jail that jeopardize the health and safety of prisoners, a federal appellate court ruled today. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ordered Arpaio to follow U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake's 2008 ruling, which required Arpaio to end severe overcrowding and ensure all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care, be given uninterrupted access to all medications prescribed by correctional medical staff, be given access to exercise and to sinks, toilets, toilet paper and soap and be served food that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines.

"Today's ruling is further confirmation that even a man who likes to brag about being the toughest sheriff in the nation has to follow the U.S. Constitution," said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project and lead counsel for the detainees. "Sheriff Arpaio's unconscionable treatment of the thousands of pre-trial detainees in his custody has gone on far too long."

The ACLU went to trial against Arpaio in August 2008 arguing that deteriorating conditions within each of the jail's five facilities that house pre-trial detainees – people who have been arrested but not yet tried or convicted – necessitate federal court oversight to ensure that Arpaio and other county officials maintain safe and humane conditions and provide the thousands of detainees held there basic levels of medical and mental health care.

The ACLU proved at the 2008 trial that the sheriff routinely abused pre-trial detainees at Maricopa County Jail by feeding them moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food, housing them in cells so hot as to endanger their health, denying them care for serious medical and mental health needs and keeping them packed as tightly as sardines in holding cells for days at a time during intake. 

A copy of today ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/graves-et-al-v-arpaio-et-al-opinion

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