BY TRACY PFEIFFER
ANCHOR MEGAN MURPHY
You're watching multisource U.S. news analysis from Newsy.
He’s famously known for making prison inmates wear striped jumpsuits with pink underwear. Now, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has come up with a new, digital plan to discourage would-be criminals -- a contest called “Mugshot of the Day.”
CARA LIU, REPORTER, VOICE OVER: “It’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s latest publicity stunt. On his website, you can now vote for your favorite mugshot.”
Sheriff JOE ARPAIO: “We decided to draw more people to our web, and we do, if you want to go on the hits, we do 800,000 a day.”
CARA LIU, REPORTER, VOICE OVER: “The photo that gets the most votes becomes ‘Mugshot of the Day.’” (KPHO)
Arpaio also says the contest will highlight the work of his employees. Critics say, at the very least, it’s a project of poor taste.
DONNA LEONE HAMM, MIDDLE GROUND PRISON REFORM: “It has a buffoonish quality to it. It’s just -- it’s a circus. And he’s good at circuses. How does that feel if you’re a victim of one of those crimes and you see people voting because the alleged perpetrator is on the website and somehow is voted as what? Being attractive? Being not attractive?” (KSAZ)
A blogger for the Arizona Daily Star notes, those in the pictures can suffer too. He did a little digging, and reports his findings on one of the women on the mugshot leaderboard.
“As of this writing, Barbara Cyran's mugshot has received 447 votes and ranks in second place. Cyran, 48, was booked into jail Saturday, accused of indecent exposure. ... A simple check of Maricopa County court records shows that less than two years ago, Cyran was declared mentally incompetent and was ordered into mental-health treatment.”
That woman’s mugshot was later taken down, but her picture still appears in several news reports and website screenshots. (Video: KPHO, Image: MikeCornelison****)
A columnist for The Arizona Republic adds a little context to the story, arguing the contest punishes alleged criminals before they ever reach a courtroom -- but considering Arpaio’s history, it’s not surprising.
“Innocent until proven guilty. Isn't that the American way? Only sometimes, apparently. ... It's cruel and grotesque. It's hypocritical. It's… what we've come to expect.”
Finally, Arizona’s KNXV airs out public opinion -- uncovering some strong support for Arpaio’s methods.
SUSAN CASPER, ANCHOR, VOICE OVER: “I say go for it. They’re the ones that got themselves arrested, publicity!”
SUSAN CASPER, ANCHOR, VOICE OVER: “I’m a firm believer in you play, you pay, so if you think the idea is humiliating, don’t get into trouble... period.”
KIRK YUHNKE, ANCHOR, VOICE OVER: “How about a night at the Hilton? How about a pat on the back and being told it’s okay for shooting someone or selling drugs, or whatever? I say we make it as absolutely unpleasant as possible so these criminals will get it together and straighten up.”
The “Mugshot of the Day” site also lets visitors vote on whether the contest should even exist -- and so far, the overwhelming response is “Yes.”
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