Arpaio believes that inmates should be treated as harshly as legally possible to emphasize the punishment aspect of their incarceration.
Arpaio began to serve inmates surplus food including outdated and oxidized green bologna
and limited meals to twice daily.
Smoking and weightlifting equipment were also banned. Entertainment was limited to G-rated movies;
Tent City: It has become notable particularly because of Phoenix's extreme temperatures. Daytime temperatures inside the tents have been reported as high as 150 degrees in the top bunks.
During the summer of 2003, when outside temperatures exceeded 110 °F (43 °C), which is higher than average, Arpaio said to complaining inmates, "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths."
In 2005, nearly 700 maximum-security prisoners were marched the four blocks from Towers Jail to the newly opened Lower Buckeye Jail, wearing only their underwear and flip-flops
to prevent the concealment of weapons. Prisoners were strip-searched when they left Towers Jail and again when they reached their destination.
Starting in July 2000, the Maricopa County Sheriff's website hosted Jail Cam, a 24-hour Internet webcast
of images from cameras in the Madison Street Jail, a facility which processed and housed only pretrial detainees.
Arpaio has instructed his sheriff's deputies
and members of his civilian posse
to arrest illegal immigrants. Arpaio told the Washington Times
, "My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you're going straight to jail. [...] I'm not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I'll give them a free ride to my jail."
The family members of inmates who have died in jail custody have filed lawsuits against the sheriff’s office. The lawsuits have cost Maricopa County more than $43 million in settlement claims during Arpaio's tenure.
From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts
; 50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.
In her book on prison policy The Use of Force by Detention Officers
, Arizona State University
criminal justice professor Marie L. Griffin reported on a 1998 study commissioned by Arpaio to examine recidivism
rates based on conditions of confinement. Comparing recidivism rates under Arpaio to those under his predecessor, the study found "there was no significant difference in recidivism observed between those offenders released in 1989-1990 and those released in 1994-1995."
Crenshaw's family filed a lawsuit against Arpaio and his office, which resulted in an award of $2 million dollars.
As in the Scott Norberg case, it was alleged that Arpaio's office destroyed evidence in the case. In the Crenshaw case, the attorney who represented the case before a jury alleged digital video evidence was destroyed.