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The Associated Press

PHOENIX - Inmates in Maricopa County jails are often housed in unsanitary conditions with inadequate food and health care, more than 30 years after a lawsuit was filed aimed at reforming the jails, a federal judge ruled.
In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ordered that anyone housed in intake units longer than 24 hours must receive a bed or mattress. Inmates must also have access to working sinks and toilets and care that meets their medical and mental health needs, he ruled.
Jail reform advocates recently revived a 1977 class-action lawsuit, saying that the rights of inmates awaiting trial - who have not yet been convicted of a crime - are violated when they are denied adequate housing, food and health care.
The courts had previously issued orders in 1981 and 1995 aimed at bringing conditions at the jails in Arizona's most populous county into compliance. Wake's ruling Wednesday updated a 1995 decree.
While ordering a series of improvements, the judge did find that the jails - which hold some 10,000 inmates - already met or exceeded constitutional requirements in some respects, and ended some provisions of the 1995 decree.
In a news release issued Wednesday evening, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he was pleased the case was over.
"I have always maintained that we run a safe and constitutionally adequate jail system," Arpaio said.
Arpaio, who took office in 1993, has described himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff" and has make headlines with such steps as feeding jail inmates green bologna sandwiches, clothing them in pink underwear, and making them work on chain gangs.
Margaret Winter, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented inmates in the case, said conditions in the jails had caused "terrible suffering for years."
"Judge Wake's decision should serve as a reminder that even a man who brags about being the toughest sheriff in America has to abide by the Constitution," she said.
Jack MacIntyre, an attorney and chief deputy for the sheriff's office, said he expected that some of Wake's ruling would be appealed, but many parts of the ruling are easily complied with.
For example, he said, the judge found overcrowding only in a section of one jail. "It applies to only 40 out of 10,000 prisoners," MacIntyre said. "The rest of them are housed perfectly well."

Wire Service
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