Creative Drunk Driving Penalties
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Good old "Sheriff Joe" of Maricopa County, Arizona has made another controversial decision regarding the inmates at the county jail. You may have heard of Sheriff Joe Arpaio before, as he is the lawman responsible for housing inmates in his "Tent City" jail near Phoenix, Arizona, which is made up of old military tents that house the inmates.
It seems that Arpaio doesn't just want to house inmates at his county jail and allow them to do their time. Instead, being somewhat of an activist, he wants to make an impact in their lives and make them truly never want to come back to jail. All inmates at Sheriff Joe's jail are issued pink underwear.
Incidentally, ex-boxing champ and ear biter Mike Tyson recently served one day in the Maricopa County jail after being convicted of drunk driving and possession of cocaine, and served his time while wearing the prison-issue pink underwear. Tyson served his time quietly and without incident. No word yet on whether Sheriff Joe made a changed man of him or not, but time will tell.
Tyson narrowly missed being a part of Sheriff Arpaio's newest plan to have inmates serve as a deterrent to drunk driving. Arpaio plans to have his chain gang of inmates convicted of drunk driving perform the burials of people who have died from alcohol abuse, while wearing pink shirts with DUI messages printed on them.
The inmates serving time for DUI convictions will be performing the burials of homeless people who have died after a lifetime of drinking. These burials will be at an indigent cemetery in the area.
Some of the inmates who are serving on the pink-shirt chain gang will be happy to get out of the tents and actually out in public for a change, even if it is while wearing a bright pink shirt which indicates that they are a DUI convict. At least one inmate says that he requested the chain gang duty for a change of scenery from the dingy military tents at the jail.
The DUI convict chain gang has already been out cleaning up the streets, with its members wearing bright pink prison-issue shirts. The inmates may find the color of the shirts a little embarrassing, but then again, that's what the sheriff thinks might change their paths in life. And after all, a little humiliation never killed anyone, did it?
Drunk driving, on the other hand, has killed many people and Joe Arpaio wants to make a difference in Maricopa County. His plan just might save lives.
Despite tough drunk driving laws, in 2006 Arizona had 585 alcohol-related deaths on the roads. That's 15 percent more alcohol-related fatalities in the state than in 2005.
This year, Arizona passed a law that is one of the toughest DUI laws in the county in an effort to crack down on drunk driving. When a person is convicted of DUI in Arizona, the first time offenders are required to have ignition-interlock devices installed in their vehicles, at their own expense. The new law also increased fines and penalties for all DUI convictions.