PHOENIX (AP) _ The sheriff who dresses inmates in pink underwear, houses them outdoors in Army tents and feeds them ostrich meat was harshly criticized in a Justice Department report for alleged brutality against inmates.

The report, written by an expert in prison operation, attacked Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's for the use of force against inmates in the county system, The Arizona Republic reported Saturday.

Condemned was the use of pepper spray and restraint chairs, as well as the jail's grievance procedures and ``unsafe'' intake area, the Republic reported.

Consultant George E. Sullivan, hired to investigate brutality charges at the jail, sited cases where guards used force that was ``unprovoked, unnecessary and, consequently, unjustified and excessive.''

Sullivan submitted his report months ago, but it was withheld from public release until the Republic had begun preparing a lawsuit to obtain it this week. Arpaio's lawyer disputed most of the findings.

``It's great to make statements,'' Jack MacIntyre said Friday. ``It's far better to back them with actual facts and sources. Mr. Sullivan did not do that.''

Another Justice Department consultant had reached similar conclusions prior to Sullivan's investigation.

The report's findings prompted the Justice Department to file a lawsuit against Arpaio last year. The suit was dismissed when Arpaio agreed to new policies, although he claimed that the report vindicated his handling of the system.

In settling the lawsuit, Arpaio signed an agreement to restrict the use of pepper spray, stun guns and restraint chairs, increase use-of-force training; and deal properly with grievances.

Arpaio, who is being touted as a possible GOP gubernatorial contender this year, is known for creating unusual programs and then luring the international media spotlight to them.

Since taking office in 1993, he has started the nation's first female chain gang, issued inmates only pink underwear to prevent the clothes from being stolen and banned coffee, smoking, adult magazines and R-rated movies from his jails.

He also accepted ostrich and emu meat to feed to inmates.