While meeting with Native American and Latino leaders in Arizona, Jane Sanders, the wife of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, visited Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious Tent City jail on Monday and described the experience as both “very disturbing” and “inhumane.” Although Arpaio surprisingly gave Sanders a tour of the facility, he refused to answer most of her questions while boasting about the routine abuse inflicted on his prisoners.
Social worker and former president of Burlington College, Jane Sanders met with Native American leaders in Oak Flat on Sunday in support of keeping their sacred land from being destroyed by a foreign-owned mining corporation. Last year, her husband introduced legislation to prevent the transfer of Oak Flat, which would set a dangerous legal precedent for the lack of protection concerning sacred tribal areas located on federal lands. Besides demolishing a beautiful place of worship, the mining project will greatly impact the local water supply by draining resources and polluting the underlying aquifer and drinking water.
On Monday, Sanders met with immigrant rights leaders to witness the horrid conditions at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous Tent City jail. Expecting to simply view the facility through the fence, Sanders was surprised by an unexpected visit from Arpaio. After inviting Sanders on a tour of the unorthodox jail, Arpaio immediately informed her of his undying support for Donald Trump.
In response, Sanders admitted to being a loyal Bernie supporter and began asking Arpaio about Trump’s violent rhetoric as well as the abusive conditions reported at Tent City. When asked about the inhumane treatment of prisoners forced to live outside in temperatures that reach above 130 degrees, Arpaio did not deny the accusation. Instead, the sadistic sheriff bragged about removing meat from their meals and utilizing chain gangs. In prior interviews, Arpaio has proudly referred to Tent City as a concentration camp.
Known for instituting female chain gangs and forcing male inmates to wear pink underwear, America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff is also responsible for severe overcrowding between convicts and pretrial detainees, denying inmates access to medical and mental health care, and providing only two meals a day that cost less than dog food. Denied access to toilet paper and soap, inmates have been forced to eat moldy bread, rotten fruit, and other contaminated food. In the case of United States v. Maricopa County, et al, the Justice Department accused Arpaio and his staff of forcing women to sleep in their own menstrual blood, assaulting pregnant women, ignoring rape cases, using racial slurs, and conducting widespread racial profiling.
“What I saw and heard firsthand today by visiting with the families and seeing Tent City was very disturbing,” Sanders said on Monday. “Sheriff Arpaio did not even attempt to explain or excuse his inhumane treatment of people of color – not that he could. That kind of attitude toward our fellow human beings is completely unacceptable, especially in elected officials and those who would seek public office. We all need to stand up and put an end to these egregious human rights abuses. Today only solidified the need for comprehensive immigration and criminal justice reform I know that as president Bernie would do just that and keep families safe.”
After witnessing the harsh jail conditions, Sanders met with the children of immigrant families, including Katherine Figueroa, 15, whose parents were arrested and imprisoned in Arpaio’s jail just for working to provide for their family. Katherine saw her parents on television in handcuffs as they were arrested by Arpaio’s officers.
“No family should have to endure what these families have,” Sanders concluded. “Their plight can no longer be ignored.”
On Monday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “Today’s visits made it clear that we need real immigration and justice reform to keep families safe.”