Stopping the Abuse

Bad things happen in jails. Worse things happen in prisons. Terrible and unnecessary things have happened in Maricopa County jails, under Sheriff’s Joe Arpaio’s reign of tyranny. All jail inmates who once fell into the custody of the then law enforcer can attest that the self-proclaimed America’s toughest sheriff was a cruel soul.

He was as abrasive as any law enforcer could possibly get, more abrasive than the law could have him. He was known to lark around Hispanic neighborhoods harassing the locals.

Worse still, the locals reported frequently that would raid their homes and make arbitrary arrests on innocents: some of whom never came back home alive.

In a span of fewer than two years after the year 2004, more than 60 jail inmates in Maricopa County died of easily treatable diseases. Those who survived the badly kept jails claimed that the substandard health conditions of the public facilities were intentionally cultivated to torture and kill the jail inmates.

Most of them tell tales of abuse and inhumane treatment while in Sheriff Joe’s custody. In fact, most of them claim that the sheriff was always there at the time they were physically or verbally abused.

Larkin and Lacey first got involved in the investigations on the sheriff’s abuse of power through their Phoenix Times employee who published articles on the sheriff’s financial misgivings at the county offices.

The articles had in them verifiable and conclusive proof that the sheriff was embezzling public funds meant to keep the county jails clean and habitable. One of the inconsistencies cited was the cash investment of 690,000 dollars that Mr. Arpiao had made in personal projects despite his annual salary of 72,000 dollars.

It was after the reporter left the Phoenix Times for better career opportunities that Lacey and Larkin took up his case. They felt that the numerous complaints about the county administration’s abuse of power and racial profiling needed to be tried fairly in the court of public opinion.

The two, co-founders of both the Phoenix Times and the Village Voice Media, published a series of articles exposing the corrupt and oppressive Sheriff’s criminal activities. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey:

The sheriff, notorious for brutally dealing with his critics, responded to the publications by sending subpoenas to the Phoenix Times. In the subpoenas, allegedly from a grand jury, Maricopa County demanded Larkin and Lacey’s journalist notes pertaining to Joe Arpaio’s abuse of office.

The subpoenas also demanded that the media house release to the sheriff’s office, private browsing data of all the members of the public who read the articles, including their IP addresses and browsing history.

The heroic duo refused to comply. They were aware that such demands from the sheriff were in clear contravention of the First Amendment of the American Constitution.

In response, they published the subpoenas and explained their context. They explained that the sheriff had been persecuting jail inmates, then began persecuting immigrants, then journalists and that he was about to start persecuting all those who read newspaper articles exposing his criminal activities.

Joe had Lacey and Larkin’s homes raided that night by his deputies. They invaded their homes without arrest warrants, armed, and used unmarked vehicles.

The public protested against the arrests and the two were released. The two journalists desired to set precedence discouraging such flagrant abuse of power and sued the county administration for wrongful arrest and harassment. Read more: Michael Larcey | Crunchbase

The lawsuit dragged in court for five years due to appeals but was concluded justly with Maricopa County ordered to pay 3.75 million dollars in compensation to the duo.

Larkin and Lacey decided to dedicate the money to defending immigrants from further discrimination and founded the Larkin and Lacey Frontera Fund.