August 25, 2010 – Private Corrections Working Group
For Immediate Release
Watchdog Group Calls for Major Overhaul of Private Prison Oversight After Audit Finds “Serious Security Lapses” Led to Escape from Private Prison in Arizona
“A door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”
Phoeniz, AZ – Today, the Private Corrections Working Group (PCWG), a not-for-profit organization that exposes the problems of and educates the public about for-profit private corrections, called for overhaul of the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) oversight of the for-profit prison industry, including:
• An immediate halt to all bidding processes involving private prison operators and a moratorium on new private prison beds
• Hold public hearings during the special session to address the problems with for-profit prisons in Arizona
• Enact other cost-cutting measures that not only save money but enhance public safety, like earned release credits, amending truth in sentencing, and restoring judicial discretion.
This action came about after the ADOC released a security audit on August 19th concerning the July 30 escape of three dangerous prisoners from a private prison in Kingman operated by Management and Training Corp. (MTC) (Coincidentally, that same day the last escapee and an accomplice, John McCluskey and Casslyn Mae Welch, were captured without incident at a campground in eastern Arizona. The other two escaped prisoners, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, had been caught previously in Wyoming and Colorado).\
Ken Kopczynski, executive director of PCWG, condemned MTC for the numerous security failures that led to the July 30 escape.
“If MTC had properly staffed the facility, properly trained their employees and properly maintained security at the Kingman prison, this escape would not have occurred. But because MTC is a private company that needs to generate profit, and therefore cut costs related to staffing, training and security, three dangerous inmates were able to escape and at least two innocent victims are dead as a result,” Kopczynski observed.
“That is part of the cost of prison privatization that MTC and other private prison firms don’t want to talk about.”
The murders of an Oklahoma couple, Gary and Linda Hass, whose burned bodies were found in New Mexico on August 4, were tied to McCluskey, Welch and Province.
While MTC said it took responsibility for the escape, vice-president Odie Washington acknowledged the company could not prevent future escapes. “Escapes occur at both public and private” prisons, he stated, ignoring the fact that most secure facilities do not experience any escapes – particularly escapes as preventable as the one at MTC’s Kingman prison.
According to the ADOC security audit, the prison’s perimeter fence registered 89 alarms over a 16-hour period on the day the escape occurred, most of them false. MTC staff failed to promptly check the alarms – sometimes taking over an hour to respond – and light bulbs on a control panel that showed the status of the perimeter fence were burned out. “The system was not maintained or calibrated,” said ADOC Director Charles Ryan.
Further, a perimeter patrol post was not staffed by MTC, and according to a news report from the Arizona Daily Star, “a door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”
Additionally, MTC officials did not promptly notify state corrections officials following the escape and high staff turnover at the facility had resulted in inexperienced employees who were ill-equipped to detect and prevent the break-out. According to MTC warden Lori Lieder, 80 percent of staff at the Kingman prison were new or newly promoted.
Although the ADOC was supposed to be monitoring its contract with MTC to house state prisoners, the security flaws cited in the audit went undetected for years. Ryan faulted human error and “serious security lapses” at the private prison.
Arizona corrections officials removed 148 state prisoners from the MTC facility after the escape due to security concerns. “I lacked confidence in this company’s ability,” said ADOC Director Ryan.
Although it’s a small corporation, since 1995 over a dozen prisoners have escaped from MTC facilities in Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Eagle Mountain, California –where two inmates were murdered during a riot in 2003.
The Private Corrections Working Group (www.privateci.org) is a non-profit citizen watch-dog organization that educates the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCI maintains an online collection of news reports and other resources related to the private prison industry, and believes that for-profit prisons have no place in a free and democratic society.
For further information, please contact:
Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director Alex Friedmann, President
Private Corrections Working Group Private Corrections Institute
1114 Brandt Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Frank Smith, Field Organizer
Private Corrections Working Group
390 SE 110 Avenue
Bluff City, Kansas
620-967-4616 620-441-8882 (cell)