Criminal Justice

Inmates punished with bread-and-water diet for desecrating US flags in cells


Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Christopher Halloran /

Inmates in one Arizona county’s jails have been placed on a bread-and-water diet for desecrating the U.S. flags that hang in their cells, authorities said.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said 38 inmates at six county jails are currently on such a diet for destroying government property, Reuters reports.

“It’s a disgrace to those who have fought for our country,” said the controversial six-term sheriff, often referred to as “America’s toughest,” in a prepared statement.

Inmates determined to have damaged or destroyed the flags that hang in their cells are placed on a bread-and-water diet for seven days, according to the statement. A second offense brings another 10 days.

Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona, called the policy a “publicity stunt.”

“It’s certainly not illegal, but what he’s doing is bad policy,” Pochoda said. “It’s just another vindictive policy that has nothing to do with running a good jail system”

In recent months, the county’s jails have also begun broadcasting patriotic songs over the public address system, Reuters reports.

But Arpaio’s actions have recently come under increasing scrutiny.

Last week, a court monitor was appointed to oversee the sheriff’s operations after a federal judge found that deputies had racially profiled Latino drivers. The sheriff is also being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for alleged civil rights abuses.

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