Court crit­i­cizes sher­iff’s use of pink-un­der­wear pol­icy

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics -

PHOENIX (AP) | The pink un­der­wear worn by in­mates in Ari­zona’s largest county are a hall­mark of Amer­ica’s self-pro­claimed tough­est sher­iff.

They also have be­come the tar­get of crit­i­cism by an ap­peals court con­sid­er­ing the case of a men­tally ill man who mis­tak­enly viewed of­fi­cers’ ef­forts to forcibly clothe him as a rape at­tempt.

The 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals ruled Wed­nes­day that strip searches and other steps may be nec­es­sary for jail se­cu­rity, but ques­tioned the le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in one par­tic­u­lar case for Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio’s pol­icy of dress­ing an in­mate in pink un­der­gar­ments.

“Un­ex­plained and un­de­fended, the dress-out in pink ap­pears to be pun­ish­ment with­out le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion,” the court said in its ma­jor­ity decision. It also noted ear­lier in the rul­ing that it’s fair to in­fer that the se­lec­tion of pink as the un­der­wear color was meant to sym­bol­ize the loss of pris­on­ers’ mas­culin­ity.

The court pointed out, how­ever, that no at­tor­ney on ei­ther side of the case ques­tioned whether the dress­ing of pris­on­ers in Sher­iff Ar­paio’s jails is, in ev­ery case, a due-process vi­o­la­tion when ap­plied to in­mates who are not con­victed of a crime.

In its 2-1 rul­ing, the ap­peals court threw out a 2010 jury ver­dict in fa­vor of Sher­iff Ar­paio’s of­fice and or­dered a new trial in a law­suit brought by the es­tate of Eric Vo­gel.

Vo­gel re­fused to get out of his street clothes af­ter he was ar­rested in Novem­ber 2001 for as­sault­ing an of­fi­cer who was re­spond­ing to a bur­glary call. A group of of­fi­cers in Sher­iff Ar­paio’s jail stripped Vo­gel and put him in pink un­der­wear and other prison cloth­ing as he shouted that he was be­ing raped. The lawyer for Vo­gel’s es­tate has said the of­fi­cers didn’t sex­u­ally as­sault him.

Early on in his nearly 20-year ten­ure as sher­iff, Sher­iff Ar­paio won points with vot­ers for mak­ing in­mates wear pink un­der­wear, hous­ing them in can­vas tents dur­ing Phoenix’s triple-digit sum­mer heat, and dress­ing them in old-time striped jail uni­forms.

Sher­iff Ar­paio has joked about the pop­u­lar­ity of the pink un­der­wear is­sue with vot­ers. In Jan­uary 2010, he told the As­so­ci­ated Press that “you know what my joke is: I can get elected on pink un­der­wear. I don’t need this il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to get elected.”

The sher­iff said Thurs­day that he plans to ask the whole ap­peals court to re­con­sider. “What do they do next — take away the striped uni­forms?” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio said Thurs­day that he plans to ask the whole ap­peals court to re­con­sider its rul­ing.

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