Alabama Sheriff’s ‘thugshot’ Christmas tree decorated with photos of arrested criminals is slammed as ‘divisive and cruel’
- Christmas tree in Mobile County Sheriff’s office was decorated using photos of local people who had been arrested, in a digitally altered picture posted online
- It also swapped out a star as a tree topper for jail-issued sandals
- The Facebook post made a ‘special Christmas offer’ to criminals by inviting them to the office to pick through property that had been ‘stolen’ by their ‘friends’
- Officers then offered to provide a ‘personal concierge #correctionsofficer’ to escort them for a ‘custom fitting’ for their ‘Holiday Jumpsuit’
- The message used laughing face emojis and suggested they ‘dress up’ their jumpsuit for Christmas with a blazer
- The post drew thousands of complaints online including from the NAACP who called the post ‘despicable’. The ACLU called it ‘divisive and cruel’
The Mobile County Sheriff’s office called ornaments ‘thugshots’ in a Facebook post published on Thursday afternoon that drew thousands of complaints underneath.
They also swapped out the traditional choices of a star as a tree topper for orange, jail-issued sandals in the photoshopped image.
Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called the post ‘despicable behavior’, AL.com reported.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office posted a photo of their Christmas tree on Thursday featuring ‘thugshots’- photos of people who have been arrested- instead of tinsel or baubles
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, which posted the image on Facebook, is based in the coastal city of Mobile, in Alabama, outside of Montgomery
The post was published around midday on December 4 on Facebook in a message entitled ‘Happy Thug Thursday Mobile’.
The post carried on: ‘We have decorated our Tree with THUGSHOTS to show how many Thugs we have taken off the streets of Mobile this year!’.
It went on to make a ‘special Christmas offer’ to criminals by inviting them to the office to pick through property that had been ‘stolen’ by their ‘friend Thugs’, before providing a ‘personal concierge #correctionsofficer’ to escort them for a ‘custom fitting’ for their ‘Holiday Jumpsuit’.
The post was filled with emojis and hashtags, including #dontmakesantasnaughtylist and #hegonnabeonthethugtree, after identifying a man by name who had recently been arrested in relation to an alleged break in at Cedar Point Fishing Pier.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s office Facebook post drew thousands of complaints online that it was insensitive as many people arrested were struggling with mental health issues
More than 7,900 people commented on the post, which sheriff’s spokesperson Lori Myles said Friday was part of a series of ‘thug Thursday’ messages that highlight photos of people who are wanted for various crimes.
The post was intended to show how cooperation between police and the community on social media can help solve crimes, Myles said. She said the mugshot ornaments represent repeat offenders.
‘It´s not their first rodeo,’ Myles said. ‘They´ve been continuous with multiple arrests.’
The Facebook post drew thousands of complaints online from people who called it ‘offensive’
The Alabama Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama tweeted that the post was demeaning and that the community required assistance not scorn
While some commenters were supportive, many were critical of what they saw as demeaning and cruel treatment by the sheriff’s department.
JaTune Bosby of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU) said most people arrested for crimes struggle with mental illness and substance abuse.
‘They need the community´s assistance and care, not open scorn from leaders, she said in a tweet.
She later added in a statement: ‘We hope the [Mobile] Sheriff and his employees hear the resounding disdain their actions have brought and realize this type of divisive and cruel messaging does not serve the community.’