The Mobile County Sheriff's Office in Alabama pulled down pictures of what it called "thugshots" Christmas tree from its Facebook page after backlash on social media. The sheriff's office was criticized after it posted a photo of a Christmas tree decorated with the pictures of mugshots of the inmates arrested past year.
While the Christmas tree was adorned with the mugshots, the sheriff's office replaced the "star" of the tree with a pair of sandals used by prisoners. "We have decorated our Tree with THUGSHOTS to show how many Thugs we have taken off the streets of Mobile this year! We could not have done it without our faithful followers!" the sheriff's office wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post.
The comments under the posts were critical with some calling the movie "extremely unprofessional" and "repulsive." Some people also objected to the use of the word "thug" to describe the inmates.
"Your 'thugs' post is repulsive. Everyone is someone's son or daughter, mother or father.....and with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, what is your office doing to help with the folks who are suffering??" one Facebook wrote, according to AL.com.
However, the Mobile County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lori Myles said that the underlying message of the post got lost. She maintained that it was a "good thing" that the criminals were taken off the streets.
"The thug tree was to show how many people we have arrested by putting them out there (on social media) and having the community sharing that we were looking for those people in which led to an arrest," Myles reportedly said. "It's funny and does draw attention, and that is why we share it. There are results. We were not making fun (of those arrested), but it's about looking at what happens when a community gets involved and gets tired of these people and their criminal activity. It's law enforcement and the community working together."
Myles told CBS News the post was taken down after the sheriff's office received death threats. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama issued a statement over the post stressing that most of the criminals suffer from mental illness and need the community's assistance and care.
"The majority of people arrested for crimes struggle with mental illness and substance use issues. They need the community's assistance and care, not open scorn from leaders," JaTaune Bosby, ACLU Alabama's Executive Director, said in a statement. "We hope the 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."