Attorney says 'optics' driving new culture in Maricopa jails

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MCSO jail inmates will wear orange uniforms instead of black-and-white ones. (Source: MCSO) MCSO jail inmates will wear orange uniforms instead of black-and-white ones. (Source: MCSO)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Maricopa County jail officials expect to have all inmates wearing solid orange jumpsuits by the end of Friday. The transition from striped jumpsuits began earlier this week and was announced right before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said, in a press release, Sheriff Paul Penzone and his public information officers would not be discussing the uniform switch with media. 

[RELATED: Orange is the new black & white: MCSO debuts new jail inmate uniforms]

It’s a move attorney Michael Manning views as another departure from the former administration.

“Optics drive culture,” says Manning, who has represented families in multiple wrongful death suits against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

“I used to get two calls a week from families whose kids or father or mother was killed in the jail or died in the jail or was injured,” says Manning. “That's down to maybe one or two a month."

Manning suggests visual changes are having a deep impact on what he calls “a culture of cruelty” in the jails. Tearing down Tent City in favor of a drug rehab program and doing away with uniform stripes, Manning believes, is part of a larger overhaul affecting attitudes within jail walls.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has said closing Tent City would save $4.5 million and solid uniforms would save $22,000 annually. 

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