The self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" in America, Phoenix's Joe Arpaio, who cranked up his Christmas music machine for inmates last month, has scheduled a caroling contest for interested pre-trial prisoners - with the winner to receive a "real Christmas dinner for himself and his cell mates."
In a move Sheriff Arpaio said "is likely to make Ebenezer Scrooge smile," the eligible inmates are those being held at the Maricopa County jails on charges ranging from burglary and driving under the influence to murder.
Besides Santa Claus and the sheriff, the judges will include Elfis the singing detention officer, who also will perform "I'll Have a Blue Christmas Without You."
The contest's final round begins Tuesday and, according to spokesman Lt. Brian Lee, 50 pre-trial detainees have signed up for the sing off. Ten finalists were chosen by the sheriff's detention staff; four women and six men. Each must sing a well-known Christmas carol, either "a capella" or with musical tracks.
Lt. Lee said the winner will receive a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings for himself or herself and their entire housing unit, which will be served on Christmas Eve. The other 8,000 inmates, he said, will receive the regular holiday meal, which utilizes donated food and usually costs the sheriff's office about 14-cents each.
And in the true holiday spirit, Sheriff Arpaio has asked that the top three inmate winners. who will be awarded a Christmas stocking full of canteen goodies, donate their winnings to a charity of the choice.
He said all finalists agreed.
The singoff will be videotaped and shown to the whole inmate population of Christmas Day, Lt. Lee said.