Arizona’s Maricopa County is considered one of the harshest areas in the country when it comes to illegal immigration. The primary perpetuator of anti-immigrant sentiment in the region is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an overall tough chief law enforcement official. Aligning with his pro-American sentiments, Arpaio recently claimed that a group of inmates would receive only bread and water as punishment for their crimes of defacing the American flag.
Sheriff Arpaio claimed that the inmates would be forced to survive on bread and water alone for seven days because they all defaced or destroyed the flags that were placed in their cells in some manner. Fox Phoenix reports that 38 inmates would suffer the punishment.
“These inmates have destroyed the American flag that was placed in their cells. Tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel. It’s a disgrace ... this is government property that they are destroying, and we will take action against those who act this way,” Arpaio said regarding the incident, according to CNN.
Feeding prisoners bread and water is largely viewed an antiquated form of punishment, as individuals cannot survive on those two substances alone over a sustained amount of time. Critics of Arpaio’s order, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, claim that the punishment should not be used in Maricopa County jails, as it has long been considered unjust.
“Long ago it was decided that the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment is feeding people only bread and water. If the sheriff is being literal, this punishment is clearly a violation of basic constitutional and human decency,” said Dan Pochada, legal director of ACLU Arizona.
The sheriff’s office maintains that Arpaio is not actually being literal when he claims that inmates will be required to eat bread and water. The prison will, however, serve a substance called “nutriloaf,” which has a similar consistency and taste to bread but with added, necessary nutrients.
Sheriff Arpaio has a history of issuing similarly strange punishments to his inmates, such as requiring them to wear pink underwear. Arpaio is also known as being a hardline patriot, so his reaction towards the inmates’ destruction of the flags is unsurprising.