A lawsuit over Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s webcams has resulted in a victory for 11 inmates, with each person receiving $500.
However, the group’s attorney, Scott Ambrose of Scottsdale, said the case wasn’t about money.
Instead, Ambrose said the five-year injunction against the Web cameras, “prohibits the sheriff from basically treating the inmates like zoo animals.”
Despite the victory for the inmates, a settlement reached in the case leaves open the possibility that Arpaio could again place the cameras in the jail after the injunction ends. Arpaio said it also doesn’t prohibit him from having cameras where convicted prisoners reside.
In addition to the payments for each inmate, the settlement calls for the sheriff’s office to pay attorneys fees totalling $60,000.
On Monday, Arpaio and the sheriff’s office filed a notice of settlement with the U.S. District Court, Ambrose said.
The notice of settlement is a proposal that would prohibit the sheriff ’s office from publishing, broadcasting or disseminating live streaming images of nonconsenting, pretrial detainees via the Web.
The settlement, which still has to be approved by a judge, falls along the lines of a 2004 ruling that came from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That decision said the cameras provided unconstitutional punishment for no legitimate purpose and “constitutes a level of humiliation that almost anyone would regard as profoundly undesirable and strive to avoid.”
A 2003 injunction shut down Arpaio’s webcam use. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Arpaio’s appeal to hear the case.
Arpaio, who said he settled because of the previous 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, doesn’t believe he was defeated in accepting the settlement.
“We kind of gave in now, but it’s not a complete loss,” Arpaio said.
In 2000, four cameras were placed in the intake area of the Madison Street Jail.
Arpaio said the need for the equipment followed the death of an inmate in a restraint chair and subsequent criticism of the sheriff’s office. He said he wanted the world to see what takes place in the jail.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” Arpaio said Tuesday.