Sneak Peek

‘Jail Cam’ Raises Hackles and a Lawsuit When Links to Porno Sites Are Discovered

"I realize that I sell my body for money as my job," says Latoya, a former Maricopa County jail detainee and sex worker. "But I didn't have a choice about what the sheriff was doing with my pictures when he put them up on the Internet," where online voyeurs caught glimpses of her body free of charge. Arpaio's use of "prisoners as an entertainment/sexual gratification source is not just perverse," says Hamm via e-mail, "but a major violation of civil liberties."

Arpaio shows little concern, even chuckling in a radio interview with Wired.com over the Jail Cam's ability to "embarrass the inmates." He defends the cam as routine video surveillance—not unlike the video cameras now policing over a million private buildings nationwide.

Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokesperson, asserts that the cameras never contained the toilet angle, telling the Voice that critics "have been projecting and assuming" that the site's supposed pornographic value makes the county culpable. Washing her hands of the matter, Allen said the jail is "not pleased" about the alleged links, "but there is nothing we can do about it."

"Voyeurism reenforces already tightly held attitudes that prisoners are not really people," notes Hamm. If the detainees' lawsuit succeeds, it could establish a new precedent: replacing humiliation with humaneness.

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