April 27, 2001 12:06pm
Sheriff Scales Back Jail Cams
(PHOENIX, AZ) -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio turned off one of his ``jail cams'' that showed female inmates using a toilet, a view that could be accessed via the Internet.
The decision followed complaints from inmate rights groups and the state attorney general.
Donna Hamm, the director of the Middle Ground inmate-rights group in Tempe, said Thursday that the camera exploited the women and was linked to pornographic sites on the Internet. She asked the Justice Department (news - web sites) to investigate for civil rights violations.
Jack MacIntyre, an attorney for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, told the Arizona Republic that a short partition blocked the camera's view of the toilet itself. No juveniles would have been displayed unless they ``look older and lie to us.''
A camera misalignment was corrected after the attorney general's complaint, but no women could be seen using the toilet, the sheriff's office said.
A Web surfer could see the view on a site called crime.com by providing a name and e-mail address and completing a consumer survey. Arpaio said his office got no revenue from the Santa Monica, Calif., organization that operates the site. The organization didn't respond to calls seeking comment.
``First live web cam from inside a working jail. You may see violence or sexually inappropriate behavior,'' the site says beneath a small, still picture said to be a view from one of the jail cameras, which also focus on holding and search cells.
Arpaio said he has done nothing wrong and that the rest of the Web cameras will stay.
Arpaio, dubbed the ``nation's toughest sheriff,'' has gained widespread publicity for such practices as housing prisoners in tents, dressing them in pink underwear and re-establishing chain gangs in old-fashioned striped uniforms. He also banned coffee, R-rated movies and magazines showing nudes.
When the Web cameras were installed in July, Arpaio said they would be educational and a deterrent because people being booked would know they could be seen by anyone anywhere. An Arizona Civil Liberties Union official called the display an invasion of privacy because many people who would be seen hadn't been convicted.