Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Arizona Jail Prisoners Not Pretty in Pink

Paraded in pink boxers, pink flip-flops and pink handcuffs more than 2,600 Arizona prisoners walked four blocks to new jail facilities in downtown Phoenix. Most moved from the Madison Street Jail, which closed for remodeling, to either the Towers Jail, the new Lower Buckeye Jail or the new Fourth Street Jail. It was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's grand event.

The moves took place in increments on Friday, April 15, 2005. First, 70 prisoners under psychiatric care were moved followed by 190 juvenile prisoners. The third wave consisted of 220 closed custody prisoners including 28 alleged members of the Mexican Mafia. Members of this group were shackled, moved individually and escorted by U.S. Marshals, FBI agents and the Sheriffs Special Response Team.

The main event was Sheriff Arpaios self-proclaimed Walk-A-Con which marched 680 prisoners to the new Lower Buckeye Jail. Pink attired prisoners were flanked by canine guard units, Sheriff posse volunteers, SWAT team deputies and mounted deputies. Overhead, the pink contingent was watched by helicopter patrols. One privileged prisoner was allowed to cut the ribbons officially opening the jail.

Ceremonies culminated with the remaining 1,500 prisoners being transported by bus from the old Madison Street Jail to one of the new facilities. The buses took different routes and each bus was flanked by both marked and unmarked police units.

While Sheriff Arpaio thought the parade was a roaring success not everyone was tickled pink by the method of his movement. Many prisoners complained that the parade was humiliating, degrading and inhumane. Many activists agreed.

Sheriff Arpaio defended the moving method saying, This isnt a publicity stunt, this is normal wear. What do you want me to do, put them in tuxedos to move them?

The propaganda fed to a gullible Phoenix public, who have long applauded Arpaios antics (he is the most popular elected official in the state), was that none of the prisoners were in view of the general public. But the pictures splashed across the internet meant they might as well have been.
Neither does Arpaios philosophy fit the world view. A not-so-gullible Irish High Court is reconsidering the wisdom of extraditing one of its citizens to stand trial in Arpaios domain.

Patrick Colleary, a Catholic priest, has fought extradition to Arizona for three years. Colleary is accused of having sex with a teenage boy during his tenure in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1978. Similar charges against Colleary were dropped in January, 2003.

The High Courts extradition ruling was to be delivered on April 22, 2005. Then pictures of Sheriff Joes Walk-A-Con were introduced. Collearys lawyer had the good fortune to encounter a cab driver who showed him the pictures the day before the ruling.

Collearys attorney, David Myers, said that after seeing the pictures, The prosecutor then realized that there was a serious issue of perjury on behalf of the people of Maricopa County.

An affidavit was produced in which the Maricopa County Attorneys Office had assured everyone that, Inmates wear the underwear under their ordinary jail clothing and its in no way used to inflict humiliation on the prisoners.

When pressured to explain the photos, the Maricopa County Attorneys Office could only reply, That these prisoners were...paraded semi-nude through a downtown section of Phoenix is...not a practice that this office can defend.

How does Sheriff Joe feel about his fiasco? I dont see what the problem with pink underwear is, he said. The pictures were taken on county property...

Sources: The Arizona Republic, KPNO-CBS 5 News, The New York Times

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login