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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “Sheriff Launches Mugshot Of The Day”

April 27, 2011

Some very high quality news headlines are featured on todays top crap online news providers websites. Gems such as “Why Leon Gave Away His Medallion” (Herald Sun), “No More Blubbing On New Masterchef” (News.com.au) and “Liz”Why I Fell For Shane Warne” (The Courier Mail) are entertaining Australian ‘news’ readers.

Why? Why me?

Today’s headline is actually a few days old now, but I found it mildly fascinating when I chanced upon it and as I can’t hang around for a better headline today I actually think it is worth writing about. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County (Arizona, USA) has launched his Mugshot of the Day ‘initiative’. Every day as new people are booked into the prison their mugshots are launched on to the sheriffs office website and the general public can vote for their favourite mugshot. Arpaio believes it gives the public a voice in law enforcement, highlights the work of his officers and make local people more aware of the offenders within their community.

Before I even go into the many issues associated with this I just need to point out one thing. The people whose mugshots are being displayed HAVE NOT been tried for their alleged crime, they have merely been booked and are yet to stand trial.

So much for innocence until proven guilty.

On the Mugshot of the Day website it does note that “pre-trial inmates are innocent until proven guilty” – so why put their mugshot up there at all when you’re attempting to make people aware of their local criminals? These people may not have done anything wrong, but yet are now going to have the ‘criminal’ tag stuck to them by their neighbours forever. Yes, I admit, I found the mugshot leaderboard somewhat amusing, but the more I thought about it the more I was sickened by this ‘initiative’. Even if people are found guilty and convicted it is up to the judge to provide an appropriate sentence, not the local vigilante group. These people should be able to serve their sentence and move on – what use is it if they can no longer get a job because local employers saw them on Mugshot of the Day? Does privacy not play a role here? Are these inmates actually consenting to be on Mugshot of the Day?

I am no expert on US law (or even Australian law) but even if Mugshot of the Day is perfectly legal I cannot help but feel that ethically it’s overstepping the line. People found guilty of crime must serve their time, however they do have the right to do so privately and share that information with the people they choose to take into their confidence. Naming and shaming (particularly before one has been tried) does not promote rehabilitation, if anything it further promotes isolation from the community which then raises a whole new truckload of issues. Talk about a cycle of poverty.

Moving away from Mugshot of the Day I found this excellent picture in the quirky news. A two-headed calf was born in northern China’s Hebei province recently. This was not the cow’s first calf, but the first to come out with such a deformity.

Each head has it’s own eyes, nose and mouth, but between the two of them they only have three ears. The calf is being nurtured by the family as it has been unable to walk and feed from its mother. I just want to give its head a scratch.

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2 Comments
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