Here's the AZ Auditor Generals' website, the link to the report highlights, and the link to the full report. Thanks to Bob Ortega for staying on top of developments around the Arizona's prison privatization debacle...
Auditor finds flaws but notes progress
by Bob Ortega - Sept. 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Arizona's Department of Corrections needs to do more to improve security at private-contract and state-run prisons, a report released Friday by the state's auditor general concludes.
The report credits the department with making many significant improvements since the July 2010 escapes of three prisoners from the Kingman prison.
These improvements include revamping the state's monitoring and inspection programs, which had failed to detect obvious security flaws at Kingman before the escapes; new, tougher annual audits of each prison; better security and reporting requirements in new contracts; and stiffer requirements and better trainingThe audit called for further steps to address ongoing security problems. for state monitors who oversee private prisons.
On their visits to several state prisons between December and May, auditors noted instances of correctional officers failing to pat down inmates properly when they were being moved, failing to inspect personal property and food items that were brought into prisons by employees and contractors, failing to adequately inventory tools, and failing to require inmates to wear their IDs. These issues also had been noted by the department's own inspectors, as previously reported by The Arizona Republic.
Corrections Director Charles Ryan, in a written response, didn't dispute the issues raised by the auditors, though he stated that, according to the department's data, "over 93 percent of the time policies and procedures are followed and no violations are found." But Ryan agreed with all of the audit's recommendations, which included:
- Carrying out a biannual comparison of private and state-run prison services, as required by state law. As The Republic has reported, Corrections has never conducted this comparison, but Ryan said the department designed its new inspection program with this comparison in mind and will complete its first such study next month.
- Continuing to develop and carry out formal training for contract-monitoring staff. Ryan said the first such training, lasting 32 hours, was conducted this week.
- Using the new inspection process to identify systemic or ongoing security issues and analyze ways to address them across the prison system, whether by training, making written orders known as "post orders" more consistent, or improving supervision.
- Giving supervisors more leadership training as part of their required annual training.
The audit also noted that Corrections spent more than $29 million on overtime and compensatory leave last fiscal year, to cover for staff shortages. Ryan asked to add 306 officer positions this fiscal year but didn't receive the funding for them, though Corrections was the sole department to see its budget rise from the prior fiscal year.
The auditors noted that, before the Kingman escapes, Corrections' annual audits of each prison were conducted by officers at other prisons, creating a "quid pro quo" culture in which officers reviewing each other had incentives not to report problems. Now, those audits are conducted by the department's Inspector General's Office.
And although the department plans to impose tougher security and reporting requirements in contracts for up to 5,000 prison beds it is now evaluating, it said it can't impose those requirements on existing private-prison contracts until they come up for renewal or are rebid.