A U.S. District Court judge ruled Tuesday that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio cannot feed jailhouse images to the Internet.
Judge Earl Carroll took 16 months to issue the preliminary injunction, which is in effect until a lawsuit involving Arpaio’s defunct "jail cam" is resolved.
Donna Hamm of Middle Ground Prison Reform of Tempe, which brought the suit, hailed Tuesday’s ruling, saying that it puts her group in a good position to permanently black out the camera.
Arpaio’s spokesman, Jack MacIntyre, played down the significance of the ruling.
"When you look at a preliminary injunction on a case that’s been pending for almost two years already, I think that tells you about the real immediacy of this decision, and that is that there is none," MacIntyre said.
Arpaio’s jail cam was launched in July 2000 to give the public a glimpse of life in jail and was unplugged in April when the private host, Crime.com, shut down.
MacIntyre said the sheriff may ask the judge to reconsider his ruling if he finds a new company to host the site.
It was scaled back in March 2001 after images of women undressing and using the bathroom turned up on porn sites.
Middle Ground filed suit in May 2001 seeking $50,000 each for 55,000 inmates who were booked into jail since the cam’s operation began, but Carroll ruled
last year they couldn’t seek punitive damages.