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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."

Bob McClay, Reporter

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