April 15, 2015; U.S. News & World Report
The fact that Sherriff Joe Arpaio serves a vegetarian diet to the 8,300 people in his custody apparently has so impressed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that they sent their very special emissary, former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, to the Maricopa County Jail to serve the inmates lunch.
Arpaio, of course, is a questionable partner for any organization concerned about ethics. Just Wednesday, a federal court upheld an injunction blocking Arpaio and his office from detaining anyone solely on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant. He has been accused of racially profiling Latino drivers and passengers and stopping them under the auspices of enforcing immigration laws.
Why does it seem like this might only have encouraged PETA to think that the time was ripe for a good photo op? Arpaio, who has never been media shy, is shown in photographs of the event side-by-side with Anderson, who is serving the men in their prison garb—beneath which, by the way, they are forced by Arpaio to wear pink underwear. The sherriff removed meat from the menu on September 2013 and he says that it saves the taxpayers an estimated $200,000 a year.
Arpaio has made media shows out of his uses of food as punishment, as in the story where he placed inmates on “bread” and water, where the bread is a concoction described as a “baked loaf of ground-up fruits, vegetables, milk powder, dough and other ingredients and, though it fulfills nutritional requirements, is decidedly unappetizing.”
Arpaio placed inmates on the food-like substance if they defaced flags he placed in their cells. “I run a patriotic jail system,” said Arpaio. “I am somewhat disappointed that 38 inmates recently desecrated the flags, tearing them up and writing on them and throwing them in the toilet.”
Anderson was positively bubbly about the sherriff’s meat-free policy and his campaign to try to get other jails and prisons to follow suit. “I believe people can be rehabilitated from the inside out,” she said in a statement. “Jails are full of people wanting to change, to make amends, to learn healthier habits and understand compassion and empathy.”
“I don’t know why every other jail and prison wouldn’t want to copy what we’ve accomplished here,” Arpaio said. “It works on every level: financially for the taxpayer, health-wise for the inmate.” Up until Wednesday, Arpaio had not cut meat out of his own diet, though he insisted he would on Wednesday.—Ruth McCambridge