Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio planned to place county jails on lockdown today and threatened to punish inmate workers who take the day off in support of the immigration reform protest march.
Lockdown means inmates are not allowed visitation, phone calls or access to day rooms, Arpaio said. In Tent City, it means all inmates will remain in their assigned tents.
“This isn’t punishment of anyone,” Arpaio said. “This is a safety measure to guard all inmates from potential disturbances tied to the march.”
However, Arpaio said punishment will be meted out to inmates who refuse to work today as a show of support for the march. Those serving sentences in Tent City are generally allowed to reduce the length of their incarceration by working, but Arpaio said those who won’t work today will lose that privilege.
“If they wanted to march, they shouldn’t have come to jail,” he said.
About 900 Tent City inmates help with food service, laundry, custodial work and other duties needed to run the jails.
The Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union could not be reached for comment on the planned punishment Sunday.
Nearly 30 percent of all inmates in Maricopa County jails are of Hispanic origin, Arpaio said, and about 1,000 are illegal immigrants.
The lockdown began Sunday at 10:30 p.m. and should end by 6 p.m. today, he said.
The jails will have extra staffing today, including special-response teams and K-9 deputies.