Francisco Chairez writes: During the sweltering summer, the temperature could reach 115 or 120 degrees. I was in the tents when we hit 120. It was impossible to stay cool in the oppressive heat. Everyone would strip down to their underwear. There was no cold water, only water from vending machines; and eventually, the machines would run out. People would faint; some had heatstroke. That summer, ambulances came about three times. One man died in his bed.
But the winter was even worse. During the winter, there were no heaters. Most jackets and heavily insulated pants weren’t allowed; they don’t want you to be comfortable.
When the temperatures dropped, we were forced to come up with makeshift ways to keep ourselves warm. The showers were kept scalding hot during both summer and winter. We hated to shower, but we would fill our empty water bottles up with the nearly boiling water and put the bottles between our blankets when it was freezing outside. We also would save the plastic bags we found when we cleaned up the jail yard and wrap our feet with them, tucking hot water bottles inside to keep our feet warm while we slept.
Still, it was freezing, achingly cold. I was in so much pain that winter that now, when I’m cold, it reminds me of being there.
Arpaio saved worse abuse for others. Those who were in full detention had to wear pink socks, underwear and flip-flops. They ate peanut butter and bread, and the only other meal they received was baloney and bread. They also had the option of “slob,” which was an unknown, disgusting substance that looked like some kind of thick stew and tasted like cardboard. (The poor people in the work furlough program who couldn’t pay for vending-machine food had no choice but to eat it.)
It’s hard to recall memories of that year. When I heard Friday that President Trump had decided to pardon Arpaio, I was disgusted, dispirited and disappointed in the American political system.
I am not ashamed of what I did: I committed a crime and I paid my dues. How ironic it is, that the immigrant who committed a minor criminal act has to live with a conviction on his record for the rest of his life, while a criminal like Arpaio gets to walk away unscathed for his crimes, which are greater in scale and severity. [Continue reading…]