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Updated Dec 6, 2013 - 9:57 pm

Sheriff Joe Arpaio defends segregation of veterans in county jails

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio defended Friday a decision to segregate veterans in county jails, saying he wants to help get them back on their feet.

"Our veterans have fought for our country and came back home. Some of them have violated the law, but I feel that we should try to help them in our jail system," he told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR's Mac & Gaydos.

"I just feel we should help them out. I don't know what's wrong with that."

Arpaio said he's separating some 250 veterans in the next 10 days so that he can help them with programs that are designed for veterans.

"Alcohol programs, maybe other mental-type programs," Arpaio said. "I want to find them jobs. I think that's very critical to the veterans."

Veterans will still be subject to the same rules as other inmates, he said, comparing the separation to that of male and female prisoners or sex offenders.

"They're still going to wear the pink underwear," said Arpaio.

The segregation process will be paid for by funds generated when inmates who buy food or make phone calls.

The Veteran's Administration has agreed to help with the programs, Arpaio said.

"When the veterans are discharged, they're going to work with them and find them a job."

Veterans convicted of murder and other felonies are exempt and will remain with the general population. Arpaio said the move wasn't a response to threats directed at them from other inmates.

Arpaio said that he expects to be criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for not offering the help to all inmates, but he doesn't really mind.

"Do you think I worry about the ACLU? They sue me every day," he said. "If they want to sue me, let them sue me."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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