The BBC Radio 4 Today programme brought Sheriff Arpaio to the UK to see what he made of the British justice system. He took part in a Webchat at the end of his visit. Read the transcript below.

Name: Jill Berliand
Question: I would like to ask if the American method - ie living in tents in hot weather and being treated harshly has a better record when it comes to recidivism? Who monitors the prisons, who looks after a prisoners human rights?

Answer: Almost 2,000 inmates live in tents are convicted and serving time. Many inmates and families have thanked me since the inmates say they will never come back to jail.

Name: Steve Cushion London Metropolitan University
Question: In 1980 there were 300,000 people in prison in the United States. By 2001 there were 2,700,000 in jail. With the exception of Stalin's Russia and Nazi Germany, no country has ever had such a high prison population. In the USA, law and order has always been a right wing code word for racism and an African-American is seven times more likely to be imprisoned than the national average. What does the Sheriff say about this?

Answer: In my jails 5% out of over 10,000 prisoners are of African American background. We do not have racism. The criminal justice system would not allow racism.

Name: Derick Attwood
Question: Our son was an unsentenced guest in Towers Jail and also your infamous Madison Street Jail, which is now fortunately closed. During his two years in your 'care' he was subjected to infestations of cockroaches, mouldy rotten food and regularly broken air conditioning in 130 degree+ temperatures which caused fungal, skin and eye infections which he still has scars from. How do you justify this abuse of unsentenced prisoners and in view of the recidivism rate, do you think this treatment will make your inmates better citizens?

Answer: It is unfortunate that your son had to spend 2 years before I believe he went to court to either be sentenced or released. We had built two new hi-tech jails which should relieve any problems in the future, if your son is telling the truth in/or over reacting to his treatment.

Name: Joe Morison
Question: You talk a lot about punishment. What purpose do you see punishment fulfilling? As Gandhi said: an eye for eye makes for a blind world.

Answer: We should hold people accountable for their actions. You should never live better in jail than on the outside. We used to punish our children and take away their privileges. I use the same philosophy in running the jails.

Name: George Foster
Question: I have heard the usual liberal views on rehabilitation this week. What about the victims!!. Yes our prisons are used to jail people who are not a threat to public health or property, but there are also people who pose a threat to the wellbeing and belongings/property of law abiding citizens. You might want to ask some victims of crime for their views on what is appropriate. What role do victims have in US?

Answer: All I hear is rehabilitation and education for the inmates. We seem to forget the victims. Criminals must be held responsible for the crimes and we should never forget the destruction of lives and property. Like those criminals who have no respect for the victims of crime. Victims now have the right to face the accuser in court on serious crimes.

Name: John Percival
Question: The Sheriff's comment about no mention being made of punishment for crime in this country is right. It is not vengeful to want punishment for offenders against society, we need a deterrent against persistent criminals and protection for victims of crime. A slap on the wrist for offenders is not enough, as the lawlessness in towns and cities proves.

Answer: Punishment is a deterrence against crime. We should never forget the victims. The first priority of Government is safety of it's people.

Name: Richard Lyon
Question: Does Mr Arpaio feel that the three strikes rule in USA is justified given the large number of people there serving life for trivial crimes?

Answer: My opinion as to why crime has been reduced by 20% across the United States is that more people are in jail. Those receiving long sentences or the three strikes rule are not in jail for trivial crimes.

Name:Jenny Russell, Maricopa County Resident:
Question: I'd like to pose a question to sheriff Joe. I'd like him to address the deaths that take place in his county jails. I'd also like him to explain the fact that crime has risen every year since he's been sheriff--disproportionate to the population growth, if the harsh conditions in his jails are supposed to deter crime.

Answer: Crime has gone down in Maricopa County especially those areas of the county that the sheriff is responsible for. Over 1 million more people have moved to Maricopa County since I have been the sheriff which naturally will increase the crime rate and incarceration. When you have 10 thousand people a day in a jail unfortunately there may be some deaths just like any other town. Many prisoners come to jail not in healthy condition. High on drugs in not receiving good health care prior to being arrested and booked into the jail system.

Name: Andrew Shaw
Question: I was interested in your piece with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. My thoughts are that prison sentencing should be split into 2 parts. A period for punishment where prisoners get no privileges and live a very basic existence. Then a period of rehabilitation when privileges are introduced to ready them for release back into the community if they are deemed safe.

Answer: I have 2 thousand inmates out of 10 thousand that have been convicted. We offer those inmates education and rehabilitation before they are released into the community.

As he was unable to hear Joe Arpaio himself, Jon would appreciate your comments on the above and, if you heard it, the BBC Today’s programme about criminal justice.

Email Jon at or post them below:


Anonymous said...

I sent in so many questions, none of them used, of course - but all framed from statements on two of the sites you link to.
What sickens me about this, even though the Sherrif faced a barrage of intelligent people all independently disagreeing with his methods, I bet he will arrange a 'triumphal return' for political purposes and announce that he was invited over to teach us Brits how to do it properly, on account of him being such a renowned expert. Pah.
Really glad Derick's question got in.

Don said...

Typical rubbish from what I have heard from him, all bluster and non-answers. And he thinks he speaks for all America. What a sick man. Sorry UK that he dirtied your shores.

Anonymous said...

I really feel for you.
You asked for comments about the web-interview, and I found the BBC
site updated with Arpaio's last words. I think it speaks for itself.
Good luck,

Xander Lebrun said...

Does anyone have info on the stats the Sheriff was quoting? They sound like bull, but it's best to be sure. Maybe we could try to get the BBC to print a correction :P

I sent in a question too, but of course it didn't get through :-/