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Tour of Hardline American States Underway

14 August, 2007


Updates & analysis posted on Mister Sensible Blog

The Sensible Sentencing Trust’s fact finding tour of Arizona & California is well underway. The delegation has spent the last two days with outspoken hard-liner, Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona.

Known as ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’, Joe Arpaio is known for being the most uncompromising hard-liner in law enforcement.

Sheriff Joe created the tent city jail, brought back chain gangs, banned smoking, movies and pornographic magazines in all Maricopa county jails.

After some prisoners were caught stealing white boxer shorts Sheriff Joe brought in regulation underwear – it is compulsory for all inmates to wear pink underpants.

Garth McVicar’s delegation is due to post their first blog on justice - Maricopa County style over the next 24 hours : (Not the abbreviation but full word - M.I.S.T.E.R, hyphen, SENSIBLE, dot, BLOGSPOT, dot, COM)

The Sensible Sentencing Trust decided to go to the USA in search of a wider view following the fact-finding trip to Europe with the Minister of Corrections last year that examined some different but mostly liberal ways of dealing with offending.

The European trip was given considerable media exposure which in turn generated significant discussion and debate.

However, SST became progressively concerned that the options the Minister saw were too narrow and one sided.

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The USA is known world-wide for its tough, swift and unsympathetic treatment of offenders so SST arranged a privately funded trip to study Sheriff Joe’s system and the ‘3 strikes & you’re out’ sentencing policy in California, brought in amid huge controversy three years ago.

“We believe it is essential to undertake this kind of study in an effort to bring balance to the debate and search for effective alternatives, because it’s quite obvious ours isn’t working”, said Garth McVicar.

“I imagine the American‘s will laugh out loud when we explain our so-called therapeutic justice model – firstly that it has a name and secondly that the theory is, if we are nice to criminals they will [eventually] be nice to us”.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has his share of critics but so far his emphasis on rehabilitation and in particular drug rehabilitation and work in prisons appears to be paying dividends.

Now, he’s considered by many to be one of the most successful law enforcement officers in the USA and is a regular commentator on the high rating TV Network, Fox News.

“We are going to see some vastly different attitudes and answers to punishment and at the very least we will return with some new ideas”.

“And it’s just possible we may find something that may result in a reduction in crime, number of victims and no need for new prisons... for those reasons we hope people keep an open mind”.


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