Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for Senate in Arizona this year. The 85-year-old is one of America’s most controversial law enforcement officers, known for his brutal treatment of inmates and opposition to illegal immigration. Arpaio, who is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, would be replacing Jeff Flake — one of Trump’s few vocal Republican critics in the senate.
Here are five reasons why Arpaio would make a terrible senator:
He joked about running one of his jails like a “concentration camp”
For 24 years, “America’s toughest sheriff” ran what became known as “Tent City” — an outdoor overflow jail in Maricopa County which held more than 1,700 inmates in tents. Temperatures at the Arizona site were known to hit 120 degrees but inmates remained at the location. Arpaio humiliated inmates by forcing them to wear pink. He also ran the last remaining “chain gangs” in the country, literally chaining inmates together while forcing them to work as punishment.
Conditions in his jails were so bad at least 12 inmates died under unusual circumstances
One inmate died in a pool of vomit as other inmates cries for help went ignored by Arpaio’s employees. Four inmates died by hanging even after federal inspectors warned Arpaio that his jail’s psych ward was set-up in a way that would guarantee suicides. One inmate died after being deprived on insulin, leading to deadly diabetic shock. Other inmates died after violent assaults by Arpaio’s detention officers, leading to millions of dollars in settlements to grieving families.
He once entrapped an 18-year-old as part of a publicity stunt
In 1999, James Saville was charged with plotting to assassinate Arpaio using a pipe bomb. The arrest was broadcast live on television, thanks to a tip from Arpaio’s office leading him to brag that his opponents could not “scare [him] away with bombs.” Except, jurors in Saville’s case came to believe that the whole thing was actually a setup from the beginning. Saville was found not guilty after spending four years in jail before his trial. He sued the county over entrapment and received a settlement worth more than one million dollars — paid for by taxpayers.
He’s one of America’s most notorious birthers
For over five years, Arpaio conducted his own investigation into the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He insisted repeatedly that the certificate released by the White House in 2011 was a computer-generated fake. He also claimed Obama’s selective service card completed in 1980 was also forged. His “investigation” finally concluded in December 2016 shortly after losing reelection as Maricopa County Sheriff.
Arpaio belongs in prison, not the Senate
Arpaio was charged with and found guilty on charges of contempt of court. He ignored orders from a federal judge to stop detaining people he or his deputies believed were in the country illegally. Non-legal status is a civil violation — not a crime. Arpaio ignored the orders, telling reporters repeatedly that he would not “back down.” That led him to face criminal contempt charges this summer. The former Maricopa County sheriff was facing six months behind bars himself until he received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump. Now, Joe Arpaio — a man who could not be trusted to legally enforce the law or even follow it — wants to be one of the people making laws for the rest of us.