Until 1976, each jail facility had small washers and dryers to wash inmates' clothing. In 1976, a central laundry was built that consisted of two small rooms located at the Durango Jail. One room was used for sorting, washing, drying, folding and filling new orders. The other room was the storage room.
The equipment back then consisted of one 200lb washer, one 65lb washer, and four 100lb dryers. Fourteen inmates were assigned to the laundry to load and unload washers and dryers and sort clothes.
MCSO inmates were issued blue jeans and t-shirts. With the jail population at 1500 inmates and growing, it was obvious that this was not the best type of uniform for the inmates. Jeans were costly because of all the sizes that had to be stocked and time consuming to issue because each pair had to be measured by waist size and length. Clothing exchanges became long and tedious. Inmates would submit "tank orders" with their clothing sizes. The "tank orders" were filled by laundry inmates. Often times the orders were filled incorrectly or the inmate had moved to another cell or facility. Sometimes an inmate would go a month without receiving clean clothing. Once in a while, an Officer would take it upon himself to have the inmates strip down to their shorts and then take the dirty clothes to the laundry to be washed. The system just didn't work.
In 1978, after seeing the hospital scrubs, the inmates were changed into scrub type clothing. Uniforms were sized small, medium, large, etc. and one length. The original uniform pants were blue and the shirts were orange, green and white depending on the job the inmate held inside the jail grounds. Blue shirts were for the non-working or unsentenced inmates and the juveniles wore yellow shirts. The colors made it easy to recognize the inmates. These uniforms not only saved taxpayers money by cutting the cost of the pants but now fewer sizes had to be stocked which meant less inventory. Where it used to take two officers eight hours to exchange clothing in a facility, it then could be done in less than three hours by one officer. Inmates began receiving their clothing exchange every week.
A new laundry facility was built in 1982 in the Towers Jail. It is equipped with two 450lb washers, three 200lb washers, one 75lb washer, two 400lb dryers, one 170lb dryer and two small piece folders.
The laundry is currently operated by a Laundry Manager and four civilian supervisors. There are 60 inmates assigned to work in the laundry. The MCSO Laundry provides clean clothing, towels and bedding for over 6,000 inmates. There are four Detention Officers assigned to do the laundry exchanges. Non-working inmates receive one uniform, two pair of shorts, socks, three towels, and a sheet once a week. A clean blanket is issued once a month. Working inmates receive a clean uniform daily. The exchange officers will exchange over 48,000 pieces of clothing in a typical week and over 54,000 pieces will be exchanged on blanket week.
The MCSO uniform is now black and white stripes for every inmate and of course our world famous pink boxer shorts. The boxer shorts were dyed pink to prevent the inmates from walking off with the white trunks. Now that the boxers are pink, it is easy to determine if an inmate is stealing underwear at the time of his release. And of course most men, especially those in jail, do not like the color pink. With the theft of jail underwear down, the county taxpayer saved over $70,000 the first year the pink underwear were issued.
Sheriff Arpaio has continued his effort to find ways of saving the tax payer's dollar. He has used the Sheriff's laundry facilities to assist other county departments, such as juvenile corrections, in their laundry needs. This represents a cost savings to the citizens of Maricopa County.
A new laundry is in the planning stages and should be built in two years. Current designs have not been completed but it is envisioned that two washers capable of handling 1,000 lbs. of laundry each will be needed to accommodate the demand for services. Under Sheriff Arpaio's direction, using the "economy of scale", additional cost savings can be realized by assisting other county agencies with their laundry needs.