Monday, December 15, 2008

Richard Dawkins On Child Abuse

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12/15/2008

Excerpt from his spectacularly successful and brilliant "The God Delusion":

"Priestly abuse of children is nowadays taken to mean sexual abuse, and I feel obliged, at the outset, to get the whole matter of sexual abuse in proportion and out of the way. Others have noted that we live in a time of hysteria about pedophilia, a mob psychology that calls to mind the Salem witch hunts of 1692. In July 2000 the News of the World, widely acclaimed in the face of stiff competition as Britain's most disgusting newspaper, organized a 'name-and shame' campaign, barely stopping short of inciting vigilantes to take direct violent action against pedophiles. The house of a hospital pediatrician was attacked by zealots unacquainted with the difference between a pediatrician and pedophile. The mob hysteria over pedophiles has reached epidemic proportions and driven parents to panic. Today's Just Williams, today's Huck Finns, today's Swallows and Amazons are deprived of the freedom to roam that was one of the delights of childhood in earlier times (when the actual, as opposed to perceived, risks of molestation was probably no less).

In fairness to the News of the World, at the time of its campaign passions had been aroused by a truly horrifying murder, sexually motivated, of an eight-year-old girl kidnapped in Sussex. Nevertheless, it is clearly unjust to visit upon all pedophiles a vengeance appropriate to the tiny minority who are also murders. All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless, if fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).

The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church . But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can't help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America. I suppose some additional public resentment flows from the hypocrisy of priests whose professional life is largely devoted to arousing guilt about 'sin'. There there is the abuse of trust by a figure in authority, whom the child has been trained from the cradle to revere. Such additional resentments should make us all the more careful not to rush to judgement. We should be aware of the remarkable power of the mind to concoct false memories, especially when abetted by unscrupulous therapists and mercenary lawyers. The psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown great courage, in the face of spiteful vested interests, in demonstrating how easy it is for people to concoct memories that are entirely false but which seem, to the victim, every bit as real as true memories. This is so counter intuitive that juries are easily swayed by sincere but false testimony from witnesses.


One Reason So Many Felons are Repeat Offenders and How to Fix It



By T.J. Seabrooks

56% of violent felons are repeat offenders and 61% of all felons are repeat offenders, partially because we’ve given them no choice. Many criminals will find themselves out of prison, their time served, free men, and unable to find a job. Most companies will refuse to hire someone with a felony on their police record; this is especially true for violent felons. Left with no employment options, it is easy to imagine that these felons will return to crime. So what can we do about it?

The Law

Currently, when someone commits a crime society has decided it is necessary to punish them. For most felony offenses the punishment is isolation from the rest of society for a predetermined amount of time in a prison. This is fine by me. There are no surprises this way. Everyone knows that if they do X they will be punished with Y. This means no one should ever feel surprised by the punishment they receive.

We also have laws barring people from being prosecuted (punished) more than once for the same crime. These laws exist to keep criminals from being harassed with litigation by the government or a plaintiff unhappy with the outcome. Unfortunately these laws don’t deal with the entire problem, and when it should the supreme court sides on the side of injustice.

The Problem

The problem with these laws is that our definition of what constitutes a punishment is somewhat inaccurate. Through many court decisions it has been accepted providing criminal history to the public does not constitute an additional punishment. But when you are treated differently for the rest of your life, treated with contempt, it certainly feels like punishment to the person trying to turn their life around.

By making this information available they have provided information that should be a private matter - a debt owed and a debt paid. The court believes that the resulting inability to get a job is not additional punishment for their crime. However, given the primary job of these laws is to provide a known deterrent for committing the crime in the first place, perhaps people would be less likely to commit these crimes if they realized ahead of time that they would be almost entirely unemployable after the fact.

Additionally, there have been a number of complaints about Megan’s Law, the law requiring sex offenders to register, but the Supreme Court has decided that it doesn’t constitute double jeopardy.I’ve lived in a neighborhood that had a ex-sex-offender move in and I would say most people’s attitudes were decidedly negative. Their have been instances of sex offenders moving into new neighborhoods and having their homes vandalized. Police show up at their door whenever anything unusual goes on. They can never live a normal life. Of course you’ll say the victim can never live a normal life after their attack. If that’s really how you feel we should be working towards a system where we arrange for the criminal to be raped daily for a few years. An eye for an eye? Sorry, It’s a little dispassionate for me and current prisons are only barely better for sex offenders in their current state.

These types of laws represent neither the spirit of the law nor the spirit of our justice system. If we believe in our justice system and we believe these offenders are ‘rehabilitated’ then why must they suffer the badge of that crime indefinitely? We have decided that juvenile records should be locked to these types of searches to forgive ‘youthful indiscretions’, kids making bad decisions. But, once you hit 18 that ability to make good decisions better be cranked up to 11 (It’s 1 more than 10) because now you get branded a felon for the rest of your life. I hear your complaints immediately, “Only people released on parole are supposedly rehabilitated the others aren’t”. I agree.

The Solution

The problem is the black and white nature of the law. We assign some arbitrary number of years to each felony and we call it even. The fact that things like sex offender registries and employment problems for ex felons exist means we don’t trust these people to not do it again. I think the answer is we stop telling people when they will be released.

We should assign the penalty of ‘life’ to all felonies with a parole hearing every 5 years. Implement more programs designed around reforming our criminals and when the parole board decides they are rehabilitated they are let out. No one can check their criminal background, make it illegal for employers to even ask the question. We will get rid of the sex registry - If the person is out on the streets it’s because the parole board decided they were no longer a threat to society. If a handful of people in a jury box are enough to decide if someone is guilty then a handful of people on a review panel are enough to decide if someone should go free, we an even make this a public service - just like jury duty. On a second offense, for the same crime, we assign the penalty of life and allow parole hearings every 10 years while making their criminal record publicly available. Of course, for a third offense of the same crime it’s game over. Either life in prison or the death penalty in cases involving murder.

These simple steps will allow us to get felons in jobs where they hopefully won’t be tempted to return to whatever criminal pursuits they previously enjoyed. Also, society will have a way to determine if someone should be released just like they determine guilt. Some people may think my solution especially harsh, I think it is far kinder than the reality faced by reformed ex-convicts today. It has the compassion our current system lacks - the good judgement of the people - and will remove silly negotiations for plea bargaining - a practice with no concern for the public’s best interest… but that’s a separate post.


FL - Sex offender registries often inaccurate, Justice Department says

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Registries are only as good as the person entering the data, and since humans do it, it's prone to mistakes.  Plus, how many dead people do we have on the registries?  At one time, Florida has tons of them on the registry.  Why?  To increase the fear factor, by making it look like more offenders live in the state, when they do not?  I think so!

12/15/2008

By MICHAEL DOYLE - McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Sex offender registries are often inaccurate and incomplete, undermining public knowledge about some of the nation's most reviled criminals, Justice Department investigators warn.

The national sex registry is missing information on 22 percent of state-level sex offenders, the federal investigators found. Driver's license information, Social Security numbers and basic addresses are regularly absent, potentially leaving neighbors and police alike in the dark.

"As a result, members of the public will not have the information they need to assess the threat posed by sex offenders in their communities," the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General cautioned.
- With all offenders being lumped into one group, the registry is already pointless.  It was originally intended to show who was a danger to the public, now it shows everyone, and treats everyone the same, so it dilutes the registry.  Not all offenders on the registry are dangerous, but you would not know that by looking at the registry.

The investigators aren't completely critical in their new 110-page report assessing progress in tracking sex offenders. They praise, for instance, the U.S. Marshals Service for increasing investigations and arrests of fugitives. The Marshals Service conducted 2,621 fugitive sex-offender investigations last year, up from 390 in 2004.
- So, just because they do more "investigations" means nothing.  How many resulted in convictions?  How many were nothing?

However, even as sex registry information becomes more widely accessible via the Internet, investigators sound alarms about the databases used to monitor the nation's 644,000 registered sex offenders. The concerns coincide with more fundamental questions about whether the stigmatizing registries go too far.

An advocacy group called Texas Voices is trying to change that state's sex-offender registration requirements so that they don't cover so many crimes. Other critics contend that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to require sex offenders to register anew when they move into new states.

"Tracking sex offenders may enhance public safety," Montana-based U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in June, when he struck down the requirement, "but any effect on interstate commerce from requiring sex offenders to register is too attenuated to survive (constitutional) scrutiny."

Multiple registries have sprung up since the mid-1990s. The FBI maintains the National Sex Offenders Registry, and all 50 states maintain their own registries, though they differ.
- Yeah, we should have ONE registry, period.  But the FBI has one, many businesses have their own, states have one, and even counties in each state have one.  So we have thousands, if not millions of registries.  Why not just one?  Think of all the wasted tax payer dollars for creating many registries, when one is all we should need, one with ALL criminals on it, not just sex offenders.  Anyone who has a criminal history, should be on the registry.  If it's ok for sex offenders, then it's good enough for everyone else as well.

Florida, for instance, allows the public to search for e-mail addresses used by registered sex offenders. North Carolina locates sex offenders by longitude and latitude. California allows searches by proximity to parks or schools.
- Many states have dead sex offenders on their registries as well.  When a RSO dies, they are then labeled (in most cases) as absconded, thus increasing the fear factor even more.  These offenders should be removed from the registry.  But, how will the police ever know?  Do they search obituaries or death certificates?

California leads the nation in registered sex offenders, with about 114,000. This is more than twice the number of sex offenders registered in Texas or Florida, and 10 times the number registered in North Carolina.

Investigators found that some state registries aren't yet compatible with the national FBI registry. Some state files were rejected because they lacked information that the national database requires. Sex offender records are "inconsistent and complete," investigators concluded

"Neither law enforcement officials nor the public can rely on the registries for identifying registered sex offenders, particularly those who are fugitives," investigators noted.

Occasionally, officials kept warrant information out of the national crime database to avoid the expense of extraditing undesirable fugitives.

"Some communities do not want fugitive sex offenders returned to them, even for prosecution," the investigators explained, adding that "we also were told states may not want to reveal that there are a large number of fugitive sex offenders in their jurisdictions."

Under a 2006 law, states have until next year to meet new sex-offender registration standards.

FBI officials said they largely accepted the observations raised in the new audit.


VT - States increasingly put criminal records online

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I'm all for it.  If it's good enough for sex offenders, then put ALL criminal records online.  And I mean all.  Those for celebrities, politicians, senators, mayors, everyone.  Then they can see what the 21st century Scarlett Letter feels and looks like.  With the increasing publicity, every time you go to get a job, a background check will be done, and you will be denied a job.  I can see the homelessness rising now!

12/15/2008

By JOHN CURRAN

WATERBURY (AP) - Worried your daughter's new boyfriend might have a nefarious past? Want to know whether the job applicant in front of you has a rap sheet?

Finding out can be a mouse click away, thanks to the growing crop of searchable online databases run directly by states. Vermont launched its service Monday, and now about 20 states have some form of them.

The Web sites provide a valuable and timesaving service to would-be employers and businesses by allowing them to look up criminal convictions without having to submit written requests and wait for the responses. And they're popular: Last month alone, Florida's site performed 38,755 record checks.

But the Internet debut of information historically kept in courthouses in paper files can magnify the harm of clerical errors, expose states to liability for mistakes and spell new headaches for people who've long since done their time, only to have information about their crime bared anew.

"It's unfortunate in that it threatens what I see as the uniquely American ideal of being able to start over, after you've paid your penance, to go to a new community without the blemish of your crime and starting a new life," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group focused on civil liberties online.

Vermont's system, which costs $20 to query one person's records, includes information on criminal convictions dating to the 1940s. It taps into the Vermont Criminal Information Center database used by law enforcement agencies, which state officials claim is "cleaner" - has fewer mistakes - than courthouse records or the data sold by private information brokers working off those records.

All you need to make an inquiry is a person's name and date of birth, and a credit card to pay the fee.

If the query finds a record, the system lists the date of conviction, charge, sentence and venue. It won't show the original charge filed, or give information about the victim or the circumstances of the crime.

Also inaccessible, according to officials, are records that have been expunged or sealed. And people can report mistakes in the records on them and ask for changes.

Agencies that deal with "vulnerable populations" - children, seniors, the disabled - can use the database for free, avoiding what is now a seven-to-10 day waiting period for the same information through the mail.

Allen Gilbert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Vermont chapter, opposed the state's move, in part because it sets up a two-tiered system of records - one set at the courthouse and another online. The online system gives only a slice of information about the cases, he said.

"There might be something about the conviction that if you looked at the court record, you'd better understand about what happened and what's behind the conviction. It would give the person whose record you're looking at a chance to have the full story explained, rather than just the end result," Gilbert said.

Michael Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association, questions whether the information in the online database yields meaningful conclusions about a crime or a criminal.

"The problem with some of these services is that they do not provide a true picture concerning the person," Donoghue said. "There may be other arrests that were made at the time, but in the interest of justice or in plea bargains, cases get dismissed. So somebody who was on a crime spree that commits 16 burglaries across several counties but pleads to only one case looks the same as the college student who, while intoxicated, breaks into a store on the way home from the bar."

Putting the records online also exposes people - and potentially states - to harm or liability if there are mistakes.

"It's not simply defamation in the traditional sense," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research center in Washington, D.C. "It's denying someone an employment opportunity if someone says 'I'm not going to hire the guy because he has a drunk driving conviction' and it's the wrong person. The state bears the responsibility for accurate data," Rotenberg said.

Michigan notifies users of its Web site that its system is name-based, making it inherently less foolproof than fingerprint-based searches.

"We say the only way to ensure (getting the right person's record check) is a fingerprint search," said Shanon Akan, a spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police.

Most states charge a fee for the service. Some make available all the records on file in a case, including the original charge, even if it's not what the person was convicted of.

"You get everything we have, except anything ordered sealed or expunged by a court: descriptive data of the person physically, everything about the charge and the arrest, regardless of whether it's dismissed or the charges weren't pursued, the court action, information on incarceration," said Martha Wright, chief of user services for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which maintains that state's online criminal histories Web site.

Brian Poe, chief executive of ClearMYrecord.com, an automated online tool that helps people apply for expungement, clemency or pardons, says online rap sheets make life more difficult for people with records.

"The challenge facing ex-offenders who've repaid their debt to society is already daunting enough, on the employment side, without them having to worry they'll be charged over and over again in the court of public opinion," he said.

"It's like a scarlet letter that can be used as a tool."


TX - Woman guilty of having sex with teen foster son

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So basically they are saying, it's ok if you are a female having sex with a male, but if you are a male having sex with a female, then it's not ok.  More double standard BS!

12/15/2008

A woman who gave birth to her teenage foster son's baby was sentenced to three months in jail and 10 years' probation.

_____, 26, faced a maximum 20-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony.

_____ must register as a sex offender for life and cannot be around children under 17 without the court's permission. She also was fined $10,000.

After deliberating about five hours Friday, jurors sentenced her to probation. State District Judge Steve Ellis assessed the 90-day jail sentence after Brown County District Attorney Michael Murray requested that _____ spend 180 days in jail.

Defense attorney Kirby Roberts, who had sought probation for his client and asked jurors to "show mercy," later said they made the appropriate decision.

After the trial, Murray said he was concerned that "a mixed message" had been sent.

Murray made a similar point in closing arguments in the sentencing phase, telling jurors that if a man impregnated his 13-year-old foster daughter, probation would not be discussed.

_____' foster son had testified he was 13 when their sexual relationship began in 2005, and _____ gave birth to their daughter in 2006. Another former foster son testified that he also had sex with _____ numerous times when he was 16.

But _____ had testified she had sex only five times with the 13-year-old and said she felt violated and raped. She said the encounters happened because he threatened to harm her young son, and she denied initiating any sexual contact. She also denied having sex with her previous foster son.

After the guilty verdict, _____ testified again — during the punishment phase — and asked jurors for probation.

"I am sorry about everything that's ever happened. Everything I do, I try to be a good person. I know we all make mistakes," she said while crying. "Each and every one of you — just look into your own heart and do what you feel fit."

But under cross-examination by Murray, she said she was "partially to blame."

In his closing argument, Murray told jurors that _____ was a predator who used teenage boys for her own pleasures. She tried to cover up the relationship but could no longer do so when DNA analysis showed the teen was her baby's father, Murray told jurors.

The defense argued that _____ had given in to the 13-year-old while she was depressed and emotionally fragile. After the first time, the defense argued, the boy blackmailed her into other encounters.

A relative is caring for _____' older son from her marriage and her baby daughter, according to testimony.


MI - No charges to be filed in Pinckney cell phone case

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12/15/2008

By Susan Oppat - The Livingston Community News

Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse announced today that no charges will be filed against any Pinckney High School students who took or distributed explicit cell phone pictures and videos of a 14-year-old student.

Morse said suspensions issued by the school district to about 20 students and parental discipline were sufficient punishment for the incident, despite the fact that distributing the photos and vidoes are crimes.

Morse said he didn't believe any purpose would be served by putting the teens onto the state sex offender registry for 25 years. He urged all parents to attend an hour-long program Wednesday at Pathfinder School from 7-8 p.m. called "Analog Parents with Digital Children."

"If parents are going to provide their children with technology, they should be aware of the capabilities of that technology and the dangers that unsupervised use of that technology can bring," Morse said.

The decision - announced at an 11 a.m. press conference - marks the end of a case that began in October when police confiscated a dozen mobile phones believed to contain pictures of the Pinckney-area girl's genitals.

Sheriff Bob Bezotte said in mid-October that the girl told police she was "clowning around" over the summer when she took the photo, which also shows her face.

Authorities estimated the photo was sent to more than 200 people after school started.


FL - Ex-Lakeland Officer Takes Prison Deal On Teen Sex Charges

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12/15/2008

By JENNIFER LEIGH

TAMPA - David Bishop, 43, entered a guilty plea today on three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior involving teenage girls.

The charges stemmed from incidents in 2006 in which Bishop, a Lakeland police officer who left the department in 2003, enticed teenage girls to have sex with him and each other.

As part of the plea deal, Bishop agreed to serve 30 months in a Florida prison for each count, but the sentences will run concurrently.

Bishop also will serve 12 years of sex offender probation. That means he must not live within 1,000 feet of a school or day care center or have contact with children younger than 18 and must observe a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Judge J. Rogers Padgett ruled that Bishop will be eligible for early termination of probation after six years if he stays out of trouble.

Bishop did not speak in court other than to answer the judge's questions.

Victims in the current and previous cases attended the hearing, and one of them spoke to the judge.

_____ said she was abused by Bishop in a case separate from this plea deal. She would have come forward as a witness for the prosecution had there been a trial.

"He may just serve this sentence, but we'll carry what he did to us forever," _____ said during the hearing.

Outside the courtroom, _____ said she appeared in court to support the victims involved in the current case.

"I just felt they needed their voices heard, and he needs to know what he's done to these women," she said.

Mike Butash, Bishop's defense attorney, said Bishop could have faced a minimum of 348 months in prison for all 14 of the counts, but the state faced two challenges in the case.

It took a year for the victims to report the crime, and there was no physical evidence, Butash said. When prosecutors offered a deal that allowed Bishop to serve less than 10 percent of the time he could have faced, Butash thought that was best for his client.


Enough is Enough!






AZ - Inmate found hanged in shower at Arizona prison

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12/15/2008

PHOENIX (AP) - A convicted child sex offender has been found dead at the state prison in Florence.

The Arizona Department of Corrections issued a statement Monday saying that 36-year-old _____ was found Friday hanging from a shower in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman's Cook Unit.

ADOC says an investigation was continuing and that an autopsy would be conducted.

ADOC says _____ had been in prison since Jan. 19, 2007, after being sentenced in Pima County to nearly 77 years for sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated assault.


AZ - Arpaio will begin charging prisoners for meals

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Hell sir, why not just fire of the ovens and throw them all inside?  I'm sure if you could, you would!

12/12/2008

Maricopa County jail inmates will start paying for their own meals beginning in January under a policy Sheriff Joe Arpaio revealed Thursday afternoon.

The move could save taxpayers more than $900,000 each year in food costs, if the Sheriff's Office's early estimates are accurate.

The policy would charge inmates $1.25 per day for their meals. It would apply only to those inmates who have money in personal accounts or "on their books." Arpaio estimated that about 2,000 of the nearly 10,000 inmates in the system will end up paying for food each day.

Those who can't afford to pay will still receive food, but Arpaio said prison officials will track their free meals.

Inmates can accrue money in their accounts in two ways. If they're carrying cash when they are arrested, it goes into an account. Later, friends and relatives can send them money.

Prisoners with funds in their accounts will be charged for those meals. Inmates who can't pay will have an open tab, so they would face those charges if arrested again and return to one of the county facilities.

Other county sheriffs have similar efforts under way, including Brevard County, Fla.

"If (family members) send money in to buy chocolate bars, it's going to go to food first instead of chocolate bars," Arpaio said as he led a tour of the sheriff's sprawling food-preparation facility on Lower Buckeye Road.

But inmates use the funds in those accounts for more than treats from the commissary, said Debbie Hill, an attorney working on behalf of inmates in a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office and the county about conditions in the jails.

Inmates also use that money to pay for services, she said, including medical care, for which Arpaio still charges.

"To suggest that the only reason they have money on their books is to pay for commissary is totally incorrect. That money goes to pay for medical care, and I'm very concerned that what will happen is that people will no longer be able to pay for other services they need because this will be subtracted," she said. "It's certainly going to discourage family members from putting money on their books."

Inmates working on the food-preparation line weren't pleased when told they'd have to pay for eating jail food.

"Are you serious? We come to work at 5 a.m. and don't get back to the tents until 3:30 in the afternoon," said Steven Sexton, 26, who was preparing to scoop food onto trays. "It's ridiculous, man. We're working."

Arpaio said inmates aren't paid for their labor.

Sexton and other inmates working Thursday afternoon complained of being served rotten or expired food and moldy bread, an assertion U.S. District Judge Neil Wake supported in a court ruling this year that found the jails offered an unconstitutional level of care.

A policy charging inmates for food was authorized by the Legislature in the late 1990s, but Arpaio said he stopped requiring them to pay when he started charging for visits to medical professionals.

But the economic downturn, and a countywide edict for departments to slash 20 percent off their budgets, has forced sheriff's officials to consider a variety of cost-cutting measures.

Arpaio said he also wants to ask legislators to allow him to charge inmates for their beds, but the food move was previously authorized and immediately available.

If Arpaio's predictions hold up, the maneuver could trim about 5 percent of the office's annual meal expenditures.

This year, county supervisors approved a meal budget of more than $16.5 million to feed inmates nearly 15 million meals, according to county budget documents.

Arpaio frequently touts his no-frills food-service policies as producing "30 cent meals," but the actual cost per meal is about $1.11 when food preparation and service is added into the equation. Inmates are fed twice a day, which brings the daily cost of meals in the jails to more than $2.

Arpaio said he is authorized to charge that much for each inmate.

"I think $1.25 is reasonable," he said.

The move comes as county officials and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union are hashing out an agreement to meet Wake's order that requires the Sheriff's Office to provide inmates with a constitutionally mandated minimum of care.

Part of Wake's ruling instructed jail officials to offer a menu that meets U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines.

An attorney for the Sheriff's Office told Wake in court last week that jail officials had already made changes to the menu to comply with that order.

Arpaio said Thursday that Wake's order wouldn't significantly increase food costs and that the inmate-meal decision was made without Wake's order in mind.


Murder - Teens and Death on the Registry

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