Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio unveiled his latest publicity stunt Monday — a radio broadcast piped to inmates and an inmate talent contest.
Arpaio and KNIX (102.5 FM) personalities Tim and Willy were on hand as Arpaio signed on in a converted storage room about the size of a jail cell that is now KJOE.
Inmates interviewed in a noisy day room of a maximum security housing pod shrugged off the radio station as nothing more than Arpaio’s selfpromotion.
“It’s just Sheriff Joe being Sheriff Joe,” said Larry Bagby, an inmate who awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
“Yeah, it’s a publicity stunt if you want to call it that,” Arpaio said. “On the other hand, it’s helping the inmates.”
The sound quality of the songs was poor in the day room, where about 25 inmates sat at steel tables playing chess, dominoes, drawing and socializing.
The station, which will air four hours a day, five days a week, has a playlist of 56 songs chosen by Arpaio, with such standards as “Misty” by Johnny Mathis and “Till The End Of Time” by Perry Como.
The station also has about 2,000 hours of prerecorded educational programs.
Arpaio said the station and the talent contest, fashioned after the popular television show “American Idol,” serve the interests of jailhouse security and inmate rehabilitation.
“I want to balance it out. As you know, we’ve taken everything away from them throughout the years, so this is a substitute,” Arpaio said.
The equipment for the station cost about $5,000, which came from the inmate fund, an account filled with money the inmates spend on telephone calls and the commissary.
The talent contest will begin in about 30 days with jail staff picking 25 inmates to participate. Arpaio is looking for a donation for first prize, probably some kind of food.