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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Maricopa County, AZ Focus: Blood on Sheriff Arpaio's Hands

    This is something I covered some time back but is worth reminding people of.

    I have been hearing about Sheriff Arpaio, America's most disgusting sheriff, for some time. Including accusations of racism, brutality, and the like. I recently watched an Dateline on ID piece on a case where someone seems to have been framed for trying to kill Sheriff Arpaio largely as a PR stunt for the sheriff. There's a rundown on that story here.

    This has inspired me to publicize the dark and dirty side of Arpaio.

    A recent story on Daily Kos discusses his latest brutality, including this video:

    This kind of illegal and immoral brutality is not new for Arpaio. Next I want to add info from Arpaio.com:

    Imagine you are the mother of a mentally handicapped thirty-three-year-old-man. Your son functions on the level of a twelve-year-old boy. His disability often causes him to act erratically, but you still hope that one day, he can lead a normal life. One night in August, 2001, he is arrested on a misdemeanor loitering charge when he begins acting strangely in a convenience store. When officers arrive to arrest him, he is clinging to the store's coffee machine and won't let go. Four officers forcibly remove him from the store, handcuff him, and throw him to the ground to be hogtied. The force seems excessive, since your son is disabled and only weighs about a hundred and thirty pounds. A few minutes later, his limbs bound behind his tiny frame, officers load him into the squad car to take him away. Before they pull away, your son asks you, like a little kid:

    "Mom, will you ride in the car with me?"

    "I can't," you tell him, "the police won't let me."

    You figure that the police will probably hold your son overnight, and you head home to get some rest.

    Two hours later, your son is dead.

    When Charles Agster arrives at Madison Street Jail, he is confused, as is typical of his condition. He tries to wriggle underneath a bench, and although he is still hogtied, three or more officers and a sheriff's deputy jump on him, punch him, and knee him in the side. One officer grips his face, pressing upward toward his chin. Although he is now unresponsive, the officers drag him, face down, into the Intake area and strap him into a restraint chair. They place a spit-hood over his head, encasing him in darkness. Minutes later, he stops breathing. The original autopsy lists "positional asphyxia due to restraint" as his cause of death.

    Videotape of the incident shows guards trying to resuscitate Agster, but he's already brain dead. A 2002 Amnesty International report expresses concern "that the degree of force used against Agster was grossly disproportionate to any threat posed by him."

    Here's another story of brutality under Arpaio:

    Forty-year-old Brian Crenshaw was serving a short sentence for shoplifting. Although Crenshaw had been in and out of jail for years and had a drug problem, he had never been accused of a violent crime. He was also legally blind. After an altercation with officers, Crenshaw reported injuries to jail medical personnel. His eye and nose were sutured, and his vitals were taken. Crenshaw stated that he was pushed to the wall, punched and kicked by officers. Apparently, the struggle ensued when Crenshaw refused to show his ID in a lunch line. Due to the altercation, Crenshaw was placed in lockdown.

    For the next six days, nobody entered or left his cell. On March 14, Crenshaw was found unconscious next to his bunk. He had a broken neck, several broken toes, and extensive internal injuries. He was comatose, his intestines had ruptured, and his vertebrae needed to be straightened with a halo. Doctors told Crenshaw's mother that his internal injuries were so severe they had to surgically open his stomach to relieve swelling. The sheriff's office asserts that Crenshaw's struggle with guards did not cause the injuries that led to his death. Despite the severity of Crenshaw's injuries, the sheriff's office maintains that these injuries were incurred when he fell from his bunk.

    On a CBS 5 program after the incident, interviewer Chris Hayes asks Arpaio, "Is it possible your guards beat Brian Crenshaw to death?

    "Is it possible?" Arpaio sneers. After an uncomfortable pause, he continues, "No, they did not, they did not, and if that's what your critics, or that you're insinuating we went into that cell block and beat him up and threw him to the floor is ridiculous. We did a thorough investigation on that. The man fell off a bunk."

    Crenshaw's bunk was 4'2" high, about a foot shorter than a child's bunk bed , or as Chris Hayes pointed out in his investigation, a little taller than a desk.

    You don't have to be a softy or an advocate of prisoners' rights to become outraged at reports like these. We all want a sheriff who is tough on crime—and we don't want our tax dollars to be spent on luxurious accommodations for inmates. Rest assured, the conditions in Maricopa County's jails aren't lavish, comfortable, or even tolerable. The temperatures inside Tent City often reach 120 degrees in the summer, and with only four guards for every thousand prisoners, Arpaio is cutting dangerous corners and endangering both inmates and detention officers. The sheriff brags that he spends more money feeding police dogs than he does inmates. The dogs, he argues, deserve better, since they haven't done anything illegal. What's important to remember is that Tent City doesn't just house hardened criminals—it also houses people who are awaiting trial; people who haven't been convicted or even accused of any crime. One young man spent four years in Arpaio's jails before being released—and acquitted on all charges. Arpaio boasts that he's saving money by keeping inmates in these conditions, but the cost of humiliating inmates is beginning to skyrocket.

    More brutality:

    Jeremy Flanders was beaten nearly to death by fellow inmates in 1996. His assaulters grabbed some loose rebar tent stakes and beat him unconscious. Flanders sustained serious permanent injuries, including irreversible brain damage. Judge Lankford found Arpaio personally responsible for thirty-five percent of the judgment, and accused Arpaio of intentionally creating conditions that would cause violence. Judge Lankford asserted that Arpaio knew that inmates often used the loose rebar tent stakes as weapons, and did nothing to stop it. According to Lankford, "The sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence: i.e., the lack of individual security and inmate control inherent in a tent facility; the small number of guards; a mixed inmate population subject to overcrowding, extreme heat, and lack of amenities. The history of violence, the abundance of weaponry, the lack of supervision, and the absence of necessary security measures supports the jury's finding of deliberate indifference to inmate safety."

    In early June, 1996, Scott Norberg refused to cooperate with guards at Madison Street Jail. Nine detention officers entered the cell, forced him to his stomach, and restrained his legs by sitting on them. At some point in the struggle, officers decided to place Norberg in the restraint chair. Even in Maricopa County jails, the chair is seldom used. One officer stated that the chair was used about three times a year. It stands to reason that use of the restraint chair would be strictly limited to the most necessary cases, since its employment is often lethal. However, the Sheriff's Office provides no specific details as to who ordered Norberg be placed in the chair, or to what degree his combativeness was a threat to officers' safety.

    Norberg had been arrested after wandering around Mesa, disoriented. He talked nonsense to the officers that approached him, and punched one of them in the head as he was being arrested. When an officer told him to shut up, he dropped dramatically to one knee, begging for forgiveness. Norberg had just been released from the hospital. He had been admitted for dehydration and abnormally low blood-sugar, telltale signs that he'd gone on a dangerous drug-binge and had been up for days on speed. Upon release from the hospital, he went to his former in-laws' house to ask for a blessing. They suggested he seek out a Mormon bishop. Norberg wandered around, aimlessly searching for the bishop. Norberg was acting strangely, and at one point began chasing two girls. He was weak, disoriented, and crashing hard.

    Norberg had drug problems. He had also been an Eagle Scout, a high school football star, and a missionary in Venezuela with the Mormon church. Norberg made no excuses for his drug problems, and he still had hope that he could get better. "On the surface, my self-portrait may now be muddled and marred," he writes in a birthday letter to his father, "But underneath await the colors of a masterpiece. Beneath crude rock, a 'David' is still breathing."

    Detention Officer Kimberly Walsh held a towel around Norberg's mouth while he was in the chair, in order to keep him from spitting. When asked about specific training regarding safely placing combative inmates in the chair, she responded, "Training? The way I learned was by the first time doing it. They tell you what to do." Phoenix police officer John Courey was at Madison the afternoon that the struggle took place, and he recalls hearing an officer shout "How (do) you like (it), you think you're a fucking tough guy?" Courey says he heard it repeatedly, "Something to that effect, several times." As Norberg was beaten, he cried out, "What did I do?" and "Please have patience."

    Walsh says she told officers that Norberg was turning purple. When they didn't respond, she said that she didn't think he was breathing. According to Walsh, Officer Martin Spidell spun around and said, "Who gives a fuck?" Scott yelled, "Oh God, please help me!" On the television news program 20/20, an inmate remembers asking officers, "What are you still beating on him for? He's already dead." After guards ignored signs that they were suffocating Norberg, he died of positional asphyxia. Before he expired, officers had tased him more than twenty times.

    A few months before Norberg died at the hands of Arpaio's guards, paraplegic Richard Post was drinking at an Irish Pub called O'Connor's. It was St. Patrick's Day, and Mike Tyson had just defeated English heavyweight Frank Bruno. A musician was just finishing a song, and Post wheeled over to him and let him know the results of the fight. Thinking that the Irish-American occupants of the pub would be pleased to hear that the Englishman had been knocked out, the musician announced the results to the crowd. Some people cheered. Others booed.

    In an hour, Post finished two drinks. An older gentleman approached him and asked, "Why don't you get the hell out of here?"

    "Why?" Post replied, "Did you bet on the Englishman?"

    The older gentleman informed Post that he was calling the police. Post shrugged and didn't think much of it. What he didn't know was that the older man was James O'Connor, owner of the pub. O'Connor, who had been drinking, went behind the bar and called the police.

    Post wasn't sure what to make of what he'd been told. He wasn't sure whether or not he was serious. But, he figured if the cops were on their way, he'd better stay where he was. After all, he had been drinking, and he didn't want to get pulled over. When the cops arrived, O'Connor informed the two officers that Post had called him "a Protestant and an Englishman." He later denied claims that he told officers Post was extremely intoxicated, and insisted that Post wasn't drunk.

    The officers gave Post a choice: he could take a cab, or they would take him to jail. Post told officers he would wheel home. Then they searched him and arrested him after finding 1.1 grams ofmarijuana in his backpack. The videotape of Post being taken to jail shows that he is lucid and cooperative. The tape also shows Post explaining to authorities that he has a urine bag attached to his ankle, and the bag is full. Unless it is emptied and an internal catheter is supplied, he won't be able to urinate. His bladder aches.

    "This is a jail, not a hospital," he was told.

    Before an officer locks Post into his cell, he tells him, "There's a big difference between what you need and what you get in here. Don't be a baby."

    As the pain in Post's bladder accelerated, panic set in. Paraplegics are susceptible to kidney disease from infrequent urination and unsanitary conditions. He manually emptied the urine bag, desperate for some kind of relief. He banged on the cell door, yelling that he needed a catheter. Finally, Post wheeled over to the toilet, tossed in a roll of toilet paper, and started flushing. Before long, the toilet was overflowing. Post figured that if he could create a big enough ruckus, he could attract a number of guards. Hopefully, one of them would sense his distress and help him.

    Sergeant Steve Kenner finally responded, but he didn't give Post a catheter. He put him in a restraint chair. Post asked Kenner for a prescribed gel pad that went on his wheelchair. Without it, he explained, he could develop sores that would require surgery. Finally, a nurse arrived and determined that Post needed the pad. They briefly removed the restraints and shoved the pad halfway underneath him. Then, Kenner tightened the restraints, pulling the straps so tightly that they compressed Post's spine. They left him in the restraint chair like that for six hours. Sores developed on Post's anus that did, in fact, require surgery. In the days following the incident, Post developed a numbness in his left hand. His arms shriveled.

    He is now a quadriplegic. Doctors determined that the injuries Post incurred while he was detained are the cause.

    And yet more brutality:

    Forty-six-year-old Deborah Braillard passed away January 25th, 2005, after being arrested for alleged probation violations. In 2003, she had been placed on three years probation after being convicted of drug offenses and credit-card violations. When she was booked into jail on January 2nd, Deborah and her family were concerned for her safety. Because she was a diabetic, she required frequent insulin injections. However, because of her prior conviction and jail stay, jail medical personnel knew about her condition. Nurses were present in her cell on January 3rd and on the 4th, but they did not examine her or administer insulin.

    On January 5th, a security report notes that Braillard had begun "kicking… groaning (and) yelling." She was moved to another room where her wails wouldn't disturb officers and awaken other inmates. A few hours later, a nurse entered the pod, but again, did not treat Braillard or give her an insulin injection. As soon as the switchboard opened at seven a.m., Jennifer Braillard, Deborah's daughter, called and notified officials that her mother was diabetic, and she told them what kind of insulin her mother needed.

    Hours later, Braillard fell into a diabetic coma. On January 5th, she entered the hospital, where she drifted in and out of consciousness, where she passed away in the hospital on January 23rd. If jailers would have bothered to look at Braillard's records, they would have noticed that during an earlier incarceration, she was given insulin every day.

    This guy should move to some third world country like Iran or North Korea where this kind of thuggery is considered normal. Here in America we should never tolerate this kind of crap. And it looks like the Department of Justice may be catching up with Sheriff "Thug" Arpaio. And if you want to help, you can: Official Recall Campaigns Begin of Racist Thugs Sheriff Arpaio and Andrew Thomas


    Blogger IMI said...

    Unbelievable. A third world country is too good. I wouldn't subject them to this.

    I think the US needs a new category for public officials found guilty of murder. Heath Insurance execs could be included too since they write most of the policies.

    This is right up there with the little known story of prisoners abandoned in a New Orleans city jail (misdemeanors, waiting trail, public drunkenness, etc) when flood waters rose.

    This isn't 'bleeding heart' stuff. It makes the US complaints about human rights sound ridiculous.

    7:30 PM  
    Anonymous misanthropy today said...

    Hey mole, I saw you've linked to my article a few times. Thanks for writing this. It's sickening to me and I am not an outrage-aholic liberal, but I don't think you need to be to get angry at this. I can't even put into words how angry this makes me. It also makes me angry that more "liberals" don't do anything about abuses to prisoners in our systems unless they're terrorists. I don't think treating anyone who is helpless badly is a good idea but certainly people who've done little or nothing wrong should not be treated like this. With all the studies and programs why don't they look into our prison problems? We could do a lot more with a lot less. It's just that insecure men with chips on their shoulders run those places and see the prisoners as the same people who picked on them in high school or something.

    5:58 AM  
    Blogger mole333 said...

    Thanks for your comment misanthropy. Wish I could do more. It disgusts me that this kind of abuse has become the model for actual reality television programs. If nothing else I can highlight it from time to time.

    8:04 AM  

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