Making Sure Crime Doesn’t Pay

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The Article

It’s hard for me to think of a job that’s more frustrating these days than that of a local cop. Day in and day out, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies lay their lives on the line in an effort to bring criminals to justice.

However, shortly after they bring these punks to the jailhouse, the lawbreakers are out on the streets again, free to commit even more heinous crimes. It seems that many of today’s lawbreakers are nothing more than career criminals. You and I, as taxpayers, foot the bill for their care and feeding much of the time. And for that investment, what do we get? More crime, more frustration, more burned-out cops.

But Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County Arizona believes he has a better way. And for his crime-fighting efforts, he’s re-elected time and time again.

What is the secret of Sheriff Joe’s success? To put it bluntly, he treats criminals like criminals. The convicts in his charge lose the precious privileges they might have at other correctional institutions.

For instance, they have no right to smoke. They have no right to read pornographic magazines. They have no write to bulk themselves up with state-of-the-art weightlifting equipment. And they have no right to see “R” movies in the cellblocks.

Oh—and they have to pay for their meals—just like the rest of us do. Shocking? Maybe. But I say it’s a good shock to the system, one that just might reduce the repeat offender rate.

The sheriff’s inmates are required to work on county and city projects, providing local governments with no-cost labor. Interestingly enough, Sheriff Joe even started chain gangs for women so he would not be sued for discrimination.

Initially, he eliminated cable TV from jail, until he discovered there was a federal court order to require it. When he hooked up the cable again, he only permitted two stations: Disney and the Weather Channel. Cruel and unusual punishment? Hardly. That’s the type of punishment you’d give your seventeen-year-old for refusing to mow the lawn.

The sheriff even went so far as to purchase the Newt Gingrich lecture series, which he plays in the jails. When a reporter asked him if he had a lecture series by a Democrat, he noted that a Democratic lecture series might explain why many of the inmates where in jail in the first place.

When inmates complained after the sheriff took away their coffee (which has no nutritional value), he responded, “This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton. If you don’t like it, don’t come back.”

Convicts are human beings and they deserve to be treated with dignity. However, the fact of the matter is they have broken the law and many of them have little respect for law enforcement officers, their own grandmothers, and even themselves. Criminals do not need coddling. They need discipline. If their parents or caregivers failed to supply it when they were young, it’s up to people like Sheriff Joe to supply it in the best way he knows how.

Liberals may cringe at the sheriff’s tent city jails, but the accommodations are certainly no worse than what our brave fighting men and women face in Iraq and other hot spots around the world. Sheriff Joe issued his own fighting words when he said, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!”

We need more Sheriff Joes—jail keepers who are not afraid to run their jails like, well, jails. To make a criminal understand the severity of his actions…to make him see that only misery awaits him if he violates the law again…is actually the responsible, loving thing to do.

True, it’s tough love—but sometimes that’s the only kind of love that works.

Joel Johannesen
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