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Patti Wigington

Arizona's New Punishment: NonStop Holiday Music

By November 29, 2010

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Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, and doesn't want us to forget it any time soon. Arpaio gets himself in the news a lot, for a variety of so-called Tough On Crime stances. Now that it's December, he's reappeared, and this time it's because he's sharing Christmas carols for twelve hours a day with the inmates of the Maricopa County jail system.

Arpaio has been sued six times by inmates who say "being forced to listen to the Christmas songs 12 hours a day was in violation of their civil and religious rights and a cruel and unusual punishment." The lawsuits have always been dismissed. In fact, last year a judge said Arpaio "was free to "inject the holiday spirit into the lives of those incarcerated over the holiday season in the third-largest jail system in the U.S."

If I had to sit through endless loops of The Christmas Shoes and Dominick the Donkey, it wouldn't make me feel the holiday spirit at all, it would make me feel stabby.

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Comments
November 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm
(1) Stephanie says:

Where I work we have to listen to non stop Christmas music too. It doesn’t make me feel “festive” at all, I find myself gettign annoyed and more likely to snap at people. I most definitely feel their pain.

November 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm
(2) Scrooge says:

I agree with you Stephanie. Every year at this time, I start cringing when I hear that first christmas carol. What is worse, is hearing those bells outside the stores. I think that Christmas is over rated, and when you have no Family, it is just a reminder…To me, it is just another day. Sorry if I offended anyone.

November 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm
(3) Lisa says:

Two years ago we had a musical Christmas display at our apartment complex. It played the same 7 or 8 songs over and over 24 hours a day. The woman in the front office could not understand why I called and snapped at her about it. They haven’t done the musical part of it since then.

November 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm
(4) Terry says:

On the other hand, if they weren’t criminals and hadn’t criminally affected the lives of others, they wouldn’t be subjected to it, at least not in jail. I used to live in AZ and feel that the nation’s criminal justice system should be modeled after, if not run by, Sheriff Arpaio. Those in prison or in long term lock-up for thier crimes have no rights other than civil liberties. More so as convicted felons as even once they are released, they have almost no rights as a citizen save basic civil. They can’t vote or have any say in the government decision’s unless they go through a lengthy, and often expensive, legal process. Even their basic Second Amendment right, the second most important thing that the founding father’s felt ALL AMERICANS should be allowed, is revoked without that same lengthy process to get that individual right re-instated.

That said, if they don’t want to wear pink, be in the desert, eat bologna sandwiches and listen to Christmas music 24/7… they need to get their act together and become beneficial members of society. They have good educational programs in the AZ jail system, they have work experience programs so that these individuals can learn a trade and be productive… till they help themselves, I have no pity that they have the issues there that they do… our soldiers live in similar condition in the Middle East and I bet they’d be overjoyed, regardless of religion, to listen to holiday music for 12 hours… just sayin’.

November 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm
(5) Cheyenne says:

I totally agree with Terry! Here in MA they are way too soft! Cable TV, Weights, all kinds of things that some productive members of society cannot afford! If you want to do the crime be prepared to do the time—-hard!
There is one here in the house I live in that has 2, count them 2 convitions of A&B on wome (and there are 3 of us in the house) and one charge for selling seraquel to an undercover cop! yet he is still here! Each time he was released early so they could house a “more violent” offender! Do I make sure my door is locked? You BET I do! Is staff doing anything? Not that I can see..So I have turned it over to Goddess because I know She will help. As for the music… well since I don’t celebrate the day anymore it’s just an annoyance I deal with.

November 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm
(6) Greenman says:

Gee Terry & Cheyenne, maybe these criminals should be locked in their cells in solitary for life, that is when they aren’t chained to each other to build highways in the Summer sun. We can always flog then nightly for good measure…and isn’t gruel all they deserve? That’d be a real deterrant to crime yes indeed…
Oh and Terry, the Second Amendment right to bear arms comes in fourth after the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly. I don’t believe the Bill of Rights are listed in order of importance.

November 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm
(7) Kate K. says:

I’ll begin by confessing that I do not care for Sheriff Arpaio. He appears to prefer being a celebrity to being Sheriff, and does not give law enforcement in that community a good name.
So I hope it won’t be perceived as prejudice when I say this is an absolutely ridiculous policy. These people are in prison; that IS their punishment. It is not the Sheriff’s job to heap indignities on them, as if to point out they are under his thumb. Yes, they are criminals but they are also people. I don’t see how this policy is intended to help convicts see the error of their ways. If you ask me, it will rather engender a feeling of contempt for law enforcement.

November 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm
(8) Lori F - MN says:

What about the poor guards?

But I have something just about as bad… Christmas music at Curves. Fast beat christmas music while working out does NOT energize and relax. It’s more like christmas eve, with a full list and nothing on the shelves. How relaxing is that?

November 30, 2010 at 5:53 am
(9) Lune says:

I agree with Terry.Also,here where I live the Christmas music is a huge relief,the rest of the year it’s country…YUCK

November 30, 2010 at 9:00 am
(10) Atheris says:

I worked for Walmart for 10 years. We had Christmas music blasted in our ears 24/7 from Thanksgiving to Dec 24th. It has been 6 years since I left Walmart and Christmas music still triggers me. I doubt I will ever be able to enjoy Christmas music again.

I sympathize with those poor inmates, esp. the non-Christian ones.

November 30, 2010 at 9:12 am
(11) StellaCadente says:

I’m also forced to listen to Christmas music now all day long and it indeed makes me feel “stabby.” Honestly, if I hear another version of “O Holy Night” I’m gonna rip something off a wall.

I was just getting ready to talk to building management last week (before Thanksgiving, mind you) about having to listen to “classic rock” all day, which, trust me, grates on the nerves. Old songs might be cool in movies, but extended whiny organ and guitar solos from the 70s are not conducive to conducting financial customer service. I have snapped at my boss and people on the phone — something I never do — and realized that I was doing so to the endless organ solo from “Come on Baby, Light my Fire.” And we won’t even discuss “Freebird.” Seriously, not appropriate for serious office business. I think the problem is that before, most of the tenants here only stopped in for an hour or so a day. Now, some of us are stationed here all day, all week. So I was just getting ready to lose my mind and then … 47 versions of O Holy Night.

Am I being punished? ;-)

November 30, 2010 at 9:15 am
(12) Paca Troll says:

I am a musician, and music educator, having both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in music. The best thing I learned through my education is the appreciation of all music, whether I highly favor it or not. I must totally agree with Atheris on this. When an unsuspecting subject is mind washed by a perpetual flood of mindless “housetops in the winter wonderland”, it is as damaging as waterboarding to the psyche. No, I will choose whether I wish to have a hoory, joory season. I hate winter in Ohio, I hate being forced to listen to garbage I dislike, It is NOT going to put me in a good mood, and I despise the places that perpetuate this. I can think or sing for myself.

November 30, 2010 at 9:20 am
(13) TerriV says:

I think Sheriff Arpaio is a total jerk. As a criminal justice major in college planning on going in to criminal law upon receiving my bachelors degree, and a convicted felon who has done time in prison, Arpaio is a poster child of everything NOT to do to people that are incarcerated. People like him that torture and torment the people under his CARE not control, do nothing to foster rehabilitation, in fact it fosters, anger, anxiety and resentment towards law enforcement in general. In spite of the statistics (that he manufactures) his recidivism rates are just as high as anywhere else.

Many of the people in his JAIL not PRISON are there waiting court trials to prove the ARE guilty of something. People who for whatever reason could not afford bail. People who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. The difference between jail and prison is jail is for incarceration of 1 year or less, Prison is for long term incarceration, anything over 1 year. A jail is a local (city, county etc) facility a prison is either state, federal or privately run. Even people with excessive traffic violations can be put in jail, only Felons are in prisons.

November 30, 2010 at 9:21 am
(14) TerriV says:

More on Joe Arpaio. He has been sued numerous times for civil right violations and some of these will soon be seen in the US Supreme Court. When they do Arpaio is going to be one sorry SOB and so are the people that pay his wages because once the Supreme Court rules he has violated these individuals Civil rights the Civil Law Suits filed against him are going to go through the roof. They will be paying out so much money in civil damages that the entire state of Arizona will go broke trying to cover them all. The County he is employed by has already paid out millions in civil suits caused by Arpaio. Dehumanizing people is NOT the way to rehabilitate them.

If one does any studying at all on Arpaio they will find that he is a brutal bully and also a criminal himself. He will stalk, bully and even bribe people that go against what he thinks and/or believes. (documented cases thrown out by his pals the judges) Some day Arpaio will be a prisoner in his own system. One can only bully, bribe, and terrorize those that oppose them for so long before someone pushes it far enough that the truth will come out.

November 30, 2010 at 9:21 am
(15) TerriV says:

I had to do this in 3 posts because of the length. Now on to Christmas music. I like it. I am not a Christian, but some of the music and the arrangements are a beautiful art form and if one looks at it like that rather than as religious propaganda it can be enjoyable. I realize that members the Christian religions are decidedly intolerant, but maybe non Christians can show them the wrongs of their ways be being tolerant.

I don’t care if someone tells me Merry Christmas because that is their belief and makes them feel good inside to wish upon me something that to them is good. Taking a stand like some of the above have is just as intolerant towards the Christians as they are towards others.

November 30, 2010 at 9:41 am
(16) Nahoc says:

Reminds me of A Clockwork Orange.

November 30, 2010 at 9:42 am
(17) Michele says:

When I was working days, I had to listen to it, too. I’d complain that not everyone celebrated Xmas, and I finally bitched enough that they shut the music off. I don’t mind holiday music, per se, as long as they included other traditions. They insisted on Christian holiday music.

Thankfully, I work alone, now, 3rd shift. I can play whatever I friggin’ want!

Although, when I have to attend staff meetings during the day, the boss is still talking about a Christmas party. I once more reminded her that there is more than one tradition having a holiday at winter solstice. “It’s Christmas! Just think Santa!”

#*%*&@%)))!##$!!!!

November 30, 2010 at 10:14 am
(18) Jos says:

Hey! That’s my dog in the closing scenes of “The Christmas Shoes” and she resents your dislike of her (almost) starring (well, OK, only) role!!! :-)

Arpaio’s actions are kinda funny though. I’m not sure if it indicates a strong Christianity sentiment, a strong punishment effect (imagine being shut in an elevator being subjected to elevator music 24/7!), or just a good sense of humor!

The dog’s name is “Martha” by the way, and she’s available for further roles! :-)

November 30, 2010 at 10:23 am
(19) Amethyst says:

Personally I go crazy listening to anything that is not my preference. We’re humans afterall. When I was still working they played Muzak in the building. It annoyed everyone! As far as my opinion on Sheriff Joe, I see many well thought out opinions here that make a lot of sense to me…on both sides of the fence. And I don’t mean the fence separating the USA from Mexico. Hahaha!

November 30, 2010 at 10:59 am
(20) Steven Evol says:

Christmas Music is EASILY the worst part about Christmas… I like the Clockwork Orange reference.

November 30, 2010 at 11:09 am
(21) danielle says:

….Am I the only person in the world that A) doesn’t mind chirstmas music and B) Can tune it out when it does get annoying??

November 30, 2010 at 11:50 am
(22) Ividia says:

Growing up, my mother would start playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. It pretty much sets my teeth on edge if I hear it before, say, the 23rd, whether its the overtly religious stuff or the secular stuff. And this was the case even while still considering myself Xian.

Is it cruel and unsual to force inmates to listen to it 12 hours a day? Absolutely. Torture is supposed to be illegal.

November 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm
(23) Morgan says:

A friend of mine and I think that Death Row inmates should test medications, instead of rats. Be humane to the rats, instead of the inmates that committed crimes so heinous that they are kept locked away for years. The only thing that should save these Death Row inmates is death! Let the Grim Reaper take them. One of my cousins, as well as her daughter were killed by the father and he is still breathing after about 25 years. Where is the justice in that? I agree that these people who are in prisons are coddled. You want weights and Cable TV?!? Pull your head out, get your life straightened up, do your time and don’t screw up again!

November 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm
(24) Shaylaa says:

BRAVO TERRY!! I couldn’t have said it better or agree more!

November 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm
(25) Aurora Moonwolf says:

Am I the only one who actually LIKES Christmas music? And I don’t even celebrate Christmas! Well, I celebrate Yule on the Solstice, but the Christmas music really puts me into the spirit. I used to work at a place that played non-stop Christmas music, and I really enjoyed it. I was at that job for five years, and I never got tired of the music over the holidays. I’m the one who always volunteered to decorate over the holidays too. It’s not my favourite time of year, but I still enjoy it!

November 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm
(26) Ardra says:

In response to those who have issues with the prison system:

It’s because it’s BROKEN.
Sucks.
Is not functioning at all.

It is supposed to be a place where people learn the error of their ways, and develop the skills to become productive members of society. Instead, it fosters no rehabilitation, only punishment without guidance. A fair number of people in jails or prisons have serious mental illnesses, and should be hospitalized, which would actually be significantly cheaper than incarceration. Rehabilitation and treatment for the inmates’ problems would, in the long run, save tons of money, because they would stop being repeat offenders.

Unfortunately, we are incapable of fixing this right now. It would take money and effort, which most Americans see as ‘too much’ to waste on people who have broken the law. Chances are, you have a family member who has. When prevention fails, treatment should be utilized. Of course there are some people who this would not work with, but they would be a minority. Since even felons are still human, they should not be thrown away.

And Christmas music, when I want to hear it, is nice. But played non stop? No. Just No. Just like I can’t stand always listening to anything. Silence is nice too.

November 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm
(27) BansheeRose says:

I would sue as well but on the terms of freedom of religion and being forced to listen to strictly christmas songs would be a hindrance of that. What about the Jews, Muslims, Atheists and Pagan inmates. Forcing something like this on them will only make things worse it won’t help them to become better people it will only make them hate the police even more and hate the system..It will not surprise me at all if we read that the inmates revolted and several people get hurt. The sheriff just asking for this to happen and frankly I will probably be cheering them on.

November 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm
(28) steve says:

My gosh, inmates aare inmates and have no right to complain about anything. I ampagan and would not want to listian to Christian Christmas Carols but give me a break, there are much worse things. If they cannot do the time or listen to the music then they have no business doing the crime. Just my 2 cents.

November 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm
(29) Rebecca says:

While I understand the stance and opinion most Pagans have of Christmas music, decorations, etc., – and fully respect your stance – I tend to just let it go by, sing to my hearts content, but I refuse to get caught up in the commercial side of the holiday. Instead I celebrate Yule, hold my own ritual, give thanks in my way which pleases the Lord and Lady, as well as Goddess Hecate, other gods and goddesses. All my animals help as well…. They join in!

November 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm
(30) Rebecca says:

Steve – I totally agree! If you’re under the observation of Sheriff Joe, suck it up! Don’t come back!

November 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm
(31) Allanna says:

I could have guessed this was Sheriff Joe’s doing before I read the article; as a former resident of Phoenix, his antics are well-publicized ranging from the harmless (if humiliating) making inmates wear pink underwear, making them pay for their own coffee, to the more brutal making inmates sleep in tent cities in hellish weather, where temperatures can soar to over 120 degrees. But I must say this is the most ghastly punishment he has yet devised! After a month of saccharine, non-stop carols, I, too, am ready to tear throats out! Way to go, Joe; no wonder Maricopa County continues to re-elect him again and again!

November 30, 2010 at 7:48 pm
(32) Lori F - MN says:

Some of his stripped down policies aren’t bad. I don’t think inmates should be getting internet and cable, not to mention work out equipment. The food they get should be enough to sustain them. and that’s all. I don’t believe someone should be on death row for more than 5 years. Life in prison? Why are american’s paying for this?
An education? Fine. GED? Yes. A law degree? A PhD? No! A trade, if they will be getting out? Yes.
As for the music, It seems a bit excessive.

November 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm
(33) Jhane says:

I don’t have a problem listening to Christmas music– religious or Santa-fied. I grew up with it, everywhere i go i hear it, so it is ordinary. I don’t believe in the themes or lyrics, but it’s like listening to someone tell a story about their opinion on something. I can just hear it and disagree or be hostile about it. I don’t wan’t to be hostile–that would just add fuel to the fire. Hate is easy, Love is more fun. I choose love.

November 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm
(34) Kendall says:

I live in Scottsdale, Az and I will say with pride: I voted for Sheriff Joe and will do so again!

Now that I have everyone’s attention (and resentment) They are not in his jail because they like it there…they broke the rules and have to pay the price of that. If they don’t want to hear the songs 12 hrs a day here’s a suggestion (sorry for the all caps folks!) DON’T DO ANYTHING TO GET YOU SENT THERE! If that happened then he wouldn’t be in the press so much. Jail and/or prison isn’t supposed to be a “country club” for those who commit crimes from robbery to murder. They are to be a form of punishment. You don’t want to be there, then don’t do the crime. That goes for people of all faiths and those who don’t believe in anything. That is all they have to do. But there are those who won’t or can’t do it, then they have to pay the price. Even if it means hearing the songs 12 hrs a day 7 days a week….

December 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm
(35) V says:

Does anyone else realize that if a religious person is in jail, then they are NOT RELIGIOUS?! Most religions teach peace and goodwill; if these criminals really do have a faith, then jail/prison/whatever you want to call it is not where they should be! Maybe the playing of Christmas music will instill some sense of faith in them so they will learn not to do it again.

As for myself in terms of Christmas music, I enjoy it usually. Even the strictly Christian stuff. That is what i grew up listening to around Christmas/Yule so it reminds me of good memories with my family. If you don’t like it, then maybe you need to learn to respect what others believe.

December 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm
(36) starphire says:

Being FORCED to listen to ANYTHING non-stop IS cruel and unusual punishment! I also cringe at the onslaught of Christmas music in November and will do almost anything to avoid it. Not because it’s so terrible, although some of it is horrendous; and not because it’s Christian. It’s just that it’s everywhere, all the time. You can’t get away from it, unless you become a hermit.

December 2, 2010 at 4:09 pm
(37) Hazell says:

I agree with Terry that the criminals did indeed get themselves in the situation they’re in but I have and always will fight on their side for the pure fact that they are human beings. I’m against the death penalty and feel that they don’t get treated correctly after they paid for what they did. Most criminals come out a changed person but then they can’t do anything with their lives. They are the same flesh and blood as you and I, even if they did something terrible. How can you look at them and say they don’t deserve what the rest of us have or condemn them to death. It’s the same as racism…no its worst because you wholeheartedly believe Arpaio can do this because it’s his legal right to treat them like dirt. Some people do terrible things, they get caught get put into prison where they lose their rights and have to obey strict rules and down right scary situations; can’t that be enough? Do we have to kill them or beat them or even force religious music onto them? I myself believe that we are more evolved than this.

December 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm
(38) Minerva9544 says:

Look, starting the day after Thanksgiving (and sometimes even before) they play x-mas music in my office. Obviously, it’s not my holiday and I totally agree with everyone who finds it grating – I’ve heard “Santa Baby” & the “Hawaiian” Christmas song so many times this year I want to scream, so I feel their pain. But as I sit at my desk, grateful that I have a job that pays my bills, keeps a roof over my head, and food in the kitty dish, all I can think is “Too bad, so sad, you made a bad decision to break the law (albeit the Sherrif has some wild ideas – though I actually love most of them) so cope with it like an adult. Do your time, get out and try to get it together and be a useful part of society! Once upon a time I scrubbed toilets & worked fast food, so can you!”

December 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm
(39) Geri says:

I agree with Terry. Jail/prison are supposed to be punishment not a free ride at a high cost to society.Maybe they’rather do the time in a Middle Eastern or Chinese prison. They get the basics and that is all they deserve.Save your compassion for the survivors of their crimes.As a Pagan I enjoy all the decorations and festivities of the season no matter what path is represented.And isn’t it the Pagan community that is supposed to be open minded enough to accept all paths?Perhaps the discontent stems from within and some work on the self is needed.

December 5, 2010 at 5:17 pm
(40) Geri says:

An afterthought. not all Christmas music is religious.And even that which is you can realise it all “talks” of the Lord and Lady Pagans believe in. All this stems from the more ancient beliefs,embrace that thought and smile.

December 6, 2010 at 8:23 am
(41) paganwiccan says:

I think it’s also important to point out that this is not a state prison full of hardened career felons. It’s a county jail, where people are serving short sentences for misdemeanors, and where some are awaiting trial that have not yet been convicted.

It’s easy to say “Well, they’re criminals so they should just shut up and deal,” but the fact is that not all of them have been found guilty yet.

Just wanted to toss that out there.

December 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm
(42) Luna WolfDragon says:

As some people have said, at work, I am basically forced to listen to Holiday music for almost 7 hours a day (I work at Macy’s, so I have to put up with it both at my workstation AND within the store itself). After a week of listening to it, you have basically heard it all and you almost feel as if your head is about to explode (after hearing about 15 versions of Frosty the Snowman and O Holy Night, you are pretty much finished with holiday music for the season). Its not that I hate the holidays (on the contrary, its my favorite time of year); I just hate some of the music (I love Vince Guaraldi), at least when I have to hear it for more than an hour.

And that’s how I feel when I am at work, when I am able to tune it out for the most part and go home at the end of the day. I can’t imagine how it must feel being FORCED to listen to it every bloody day.

December 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm
(43) Ever says:

On one hand, I feel sorry for them. On the other hand, I think it’s hilarious!
Blessings to all! Ever )O(

December 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm
(44) pepperstorm says:

Look I know they are incarcerated but 12 hours a day?! I love christmas songs but all that noise would make me commit murder over time, I can only tolerate so much noise even my favorite songs. I think that sheriff is too full of himself and should be removed from office. I bet he use to annoy his neighbors, but now has a trapped audience. I feel sorry for those prisoners, rehabilitation is better not turning them into a bunch of scrooges.

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