Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio recently instituted a “Mugshot of the Day” contest, asking the general public to vote online for which untried inmate has the best mugshot.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I think Arpaio, who apparently holds the title of “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” may not have been loved enough as a child.
Known for atypical, creative and often abusive practices against Maricopa County prisoners, at various points over his career, Arpaio has:
The “mugshot of the day” contest would be funny if it were a random website, but coming from an actual sheriff, it’s unethical.
To view the site go here.
As you can see, Benjamin Luna, a bugged-out man covered in some kind of white plaster or powder currently holds the “Mugshot of the Day” title. Luna, who was brought in on drug-related charges, looks as if cops arrested him while he was making a paper mache mold of his face and chest, or possibly dunking his head in a jacuzzi full of cocaine. In the mildly amusing shot, Luna appears tired yet smug as he sports a large, stiff bandage over his right eye.
It’s all downhill from there. The second most popular inmate, a guy named Alfred John Shepard, who a full 1,253 people voted for, lacks facial expression, mostly because his lower jaw is no longer attached to his face. He was also brought in on drug-related charges.
The rest, save one grinning, healthy-looking man named Duane who was arrested for a DUI, are the mugs of exhausted, bewildered, downtrodden individuals.
I’m not saying they are innocent, or even that violent criminals should be treated with a gentle hand.
But, as a caption at the bottom of each page reads, “Pre-trial inmates are innocent until proven guilty.” This important detail should be posted at the front and center of the page, or better yet, serve as a reason for the site not to exist. If any featured inmates have jobs and families, which undoubtedly some must, Arpaio’s game could prove ruinous.
The contest also falls within a wider trend where the media exploits criminals, as well as common people who are down on their luck. No matter how much Arpaio hates criminals, as a state-employed sheriff he shouldn’t be using them to entertain the public and boost his own profile. Doesn’t MTV already have that covered?