Good Job Sheriff Joe!

Frequent readers will know that I don't think much of our County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Sheriff Joe gains a ton of PR for himself as the "toughest sheriff in America" and relishes in making jail conditions as miserable as possible.  Recognize that this is the jail that holds many people after arrest but before conviction. 

Now on to the figure mentioned in the Dickerson piece of 2,150
"prison condition" lawsuits since 2004. Anyone with two licks of sense
can go online at, or,
enter "Arpaio" into the federal court docket, then count the lawsuits
that name "prison conditions" as the cause. Count back to 2004, and as
of mid-December, that number was more than 2,150.

The same search for
the top jail custodians in L.A., New York, Chicago, and Houston nets a
total of only 43 "prison condition" lawsuits.

Remember, those 2,150
lawsuits against Arpaio are only in federal court. There are hundreds
more listed online with the Maricopa County Superior Court, at


"For the period January 1, 1993, to [November 29, 2007], the county
has paid $30,039,928.75 on Sheriff Department General Liability
claims," state the docs. "This figure includes all payments, attorney
fees, other litigation expenses, settlements, payments on verdicts,

Additionally, New Times
asked Crowley how much the lawsuit insurance policy that also covers
the sheriff has cost taxpayers. Crowley croaked, "The county has paid
for General Liability coverage for the period 3-1-95 to 3-1-08 total
premiums of $11,345,609.50."

Keep in mind that this
liability coverage figure is high, in part, because of all those
lawsuit payoffs to relatives of dead inmates.

From 1995 to 1998, the county paid $328,894 a year for an insurance policy with a $1 million deductible.                                       

Maricopa County pays a yearly premium of $1.2 million for outside
insurance with a $5 million deductible. For any lawsuit that costs $5
million or less, the county foots the entire bill. It's the best policy
the county can buy because of Arpaio's terrible track record.


  1. M. Hodak:

    And yet the taxpayers keep electing him? Is this a case book example of what Bryan Caplan was talking about?

  2. Jim Collins:

    How many of these lawsuits were settled out of court by either the County or their insrrance company? How many of these lawsuits are just plain BS? How about a little analysis of these statistics like you have done with the Global Warming and health care statistics?

    Arpaio has made himself and your County a target. Insurance companies are a joke when it comes to liability issues. They make the descision on settling or going to court and then blame the insured by denying coverage or charging through the nose for it. The County would be beter served by investing the premiums and making the County's lawyer do his job.

  3. ParatrooperJJ:

    Well Jim, the sheriff would actually be better off if he treated his prisoners humanely instead of the current conditions they are in.

  4. Jim Collins:

    Define humanely paratrooper. They are in jail, not at a resort. If there was anything that could be proven to be inhumane about the way he was treating his prisoners it would be all over CNN, FoxNews and the rest of the media. He would be removed from office and not have the chance of being re-elected. Personally I think the guy is a self-serving jerk, but that is beside the point.

    When I was in the Navy I deployed on aircraft carriers. On my first deployment we had a drug dog on board. The people responsible for taking care of the dog did a first rate job, but after that deployment the dog was removed from the ship. The reason given was that conditions on board constituted cruelty to animals, but it ok for us.

  5. cookie:

    I don't know, but could the extra insurance costs be an expenditure that is more than compensated for by the greater risks to those who wish to commit crimes in this sheriff's county? My guess is that the electorate thinks so (which is why they keep re-electing him).

  6. skh.pcola:

    What is an estimate for how much tax payer money has been saved due to his niggardly use of county funds, using roadkill for food, etc.? It may be a net benefit to the county having Arpaio in office, taken as a whole.

  7. markm:

    cookie: As far as I can tell, the average voter thinks the federal government gives him money every spring with the income tax refund, so I doubt they understand what this sheriff is costing them.

  8. mahtso:

    I don’t consider the New Times to be a reliable source of information generally, and the piece that was linked provides a specific example of why (e.g., the juvenile nature of calling the Sheriff Nickel Bag Joe).

    But accepting that $30,039,928.75 is accurate and, considering that Maricopa County’s population is over 3,200,000, the cost has been less than $10 per person (less than a $1 per year each) or maybe twice that if you account for population growth since 1993. And I do not accept that all these costs are personally attributable to the Sheriff as opposed to staff members/deputies making mistakes and/or the costs of defending bogus claims.

    As to why people have reelected Sheriff Arpaio, I suspect that some reasons include: (1) The media generally (particularly in the early years of his service) lionized the man and much of that good will has not dissipated; (2) As Jim Collins suggested, there have been media investigations of jail conditions and these investigations apparently have not resulted in findings that conditions are inhumane or that the accident/injury rate is out of line with other jails. There have been some (2 or 3 I’d guess) deaths in the jail that got a lot of media attention, but the media accounts indicated that the decedents were high on drugs and out of control. Obviously the drug-crazed individual should not end up dead, but I think that many in the electorate accept that that person bears the primary responsibility for his acts (despite the insurance companies settling the claims); (3) The Sheriff has done a lot of good (e.g., GED and drug counseling programs in the jails; raising public awareness on a number of issues); (4) while other jurisdictions are releasing prisoners early do to overcrowding, Sheriff Arpaio built tent city to avoid a similar result here.

  9. eltkj:


  10. eltkj:


  11. eltkj: