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Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts inmates on 'bread and water' for flag desecration

Ross D. Franklin / AP file

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, seen here at a December news conference, says 38 inmates at the jail have desecrated American flags.

Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio says 38 inmates have rebelled against his new policy of putting American flags in jail cells, desecrating the Stars and Stripes and earning them what he calls a diet of "bread and water."

The regimen actually is a baked loaf of ground-up fruits, vegetables, milk powder, dough and other ingredients and, though it fulfills nutritional requirements, is decidedly unappetizing.

Arpaio said that any inmate who damages a flag will be eating the so-called nutra-loaf — without utensils — for two weeks.

"I run a patriotic jail system," said Arpaio. "I am somewhat disappointed that 38 inmates recently desecrated the flags, tearing them up and writing on them and throwing them in the toilet."

The Maricopa County sheriff has made headlines in the past for making prisoners wear pink underwear and questioning President Barack Obama's birth certificate. A federal judge ruled last year that his office has racially profiled Latinos, a decision the five-term sheriff is appealing.

The Arizona American Civil Liberties Union said it did not have a comment on Arpaio's flags-in-cells program or the punishment he's devised.

"This is not a First Amendment situation," Arpaio said. "When they tamper with the flag, they are tampering with government property."

Arpaio said he did not know why the inmates were damaging the flags, "but I don't believe there is any conspiracy."