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Sheriff Joe Arpaio: 38 Arizona inmates who defaced flag to eat only bread, water

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(CNN) -- A diet of bread and water is the punishment for dozens of Arizona inmates who allegedly defaced American flags placed in their jail cells.

The 38 male inmates are part of the Maricopa County jail system, which is under the control of controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio.

For their alleged unpatriotic acts, the sheriff said Thursday, they'll survive on bread and water for seven days.

"These inmates have destroyed the American flag that was placed in their cells," Arpaio said. "Tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel. It's a disgrace ... this is government property that they are destroying, and we will take action against those who act this way."

The flags are part of a push for patriotism in county jail cells that includes listening to the "Star-Spangled Banner" every morning and "God Bless America" every night over the intercom system.

Arpaio implemented the American flag jailhouse initiative in November.

At the time, he announced a push to hire more veterans, saying his office employs more than 600 men and women who have served in the military. He manages about 8,000 inmates.

"Sheriff Arpaio is a Korean War veteran and a big patriot," said Chrisopher Hegstrom, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.

Arpaio's tough, headline-grabbing punishments have earned him diehard supporters and fiery opponents along the way.

He's issued pink underwear to the men detained in the county's jails and said he is saving taxpayers money by removing salt and pepper from prison meals.

This month, the county announced that his racial and ethnic profiling will cost it at least $22 million. A court ruled in May that his office routinely profiled Latinos during traffic and immigration patrols.

His office has a history of targeting vehicles with occupants of Latino heritage, scrutinizing them more strictly and detaining them more often, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled.

Arpaio has denied any discrimination or civil rights violations, and is appealing the decision.

He was elected to his sixth term as sheriff for the Phoenix area in November 2012.


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