Phoenix, AZ – Corrections Director Charles Ryan detailed a series of problems
that his staffers found at the facility in the wake of the July
30 escape. Among the most serious is that the alarm system for
the permieter fence was not working properly.
(What was found were excessive false alarms. In a 16-hour period
on July 30th, and that number was 89 alarms. The system was not
maintained or calibrated.)
Ryan said the result was that guards were in his words
desensitized to alarms going off and didn't think much about it,
somethimes taking as long as an hour to check it out and clear
the problem. Ryan also found control panels where bulbs had been
burned out for who knows how long. And guards did not make
routine checks of the fence. All that is significant because the
inmates escaped when an accomplice tossed in a wire cutter and
they made a 30 by 22 inch hole which went undetected for hours.
Odie Washington, a vice president of Management and Training
Corporation which owns the facility brushed aside questions of
whether the incident -- and the two deaths linked to escapees --
shows that inmates should not be housed in privately run prisons.
(I'm making no excuses for escapes from private facilities. What
I'm simply saying that escapes occur at both public and private.
And it's incumbent that company, that state, to do any and
everything they can to ensure that you close those gaps that
inmates take advantage of.)
Ryan did agree to pull those convicted of first-degree murder out
of the medium-security facility, at least for the time being. But
the ultimate decision on the future of private prisons rests, at
least in part, with Gov. Jan Brewer. But the governor said she
continues to believe that it's acceptable for the state to
contract with private companies to house convicted criminals.
(Fact of the matter is we've had private prisons throughout the
United States for a great length of time. And they have been
successful. This basically is an incident that was unacceptable
and we are getting to the bottom of it. And we will pursue and
One of the inmates remains at large, along with his accomplice.
For Arizona public Radio this is Howard Fischer.