------From Mohave Daily News------
Officials trying to determine if prisoners convicted of violent crimes were usedBULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City has suspended its inmate worker program while the city tries to determine whether the state prison near Kingman sent inmates convicted of violent crimes to participate.
“The eligibility of three of the 10 inmates in our program has been called into question,” City Manager Toby Cotter said Monday afternoon. “The program is temporarily suspended until we can investigate this further.”
Under an agreement between the city at the Arizona Department of Corrections, the state was to provide non-violent inmates from the privately run Arizona State Prison-Kingman. In August, Cotter told the Bullhead City Council that, “foremost, in order for inmates to qualify for the program, they are screened by the prison and contracting agency to ensure the safety of the public and (other) inmates is not compromised. Secondly, the Arizona Department of Corrections only allows inmates with a non-violent history to be allowed to work away from the prison.”
He said offenses for drug and alcohol violations were typical of participants in the program.
But in an email received Monday by Cotter, Mayor Jack Hakim and Public Information Officer Steve Johnson, it was asserted that from “a list of 10 bullhead City-assigned prisoners obtained from the Arizona Department of Corrections, three are violent offenders.”
Johnson said the city is working to confirm the criminal histories of those three inmates. Cotter said the prison maintains they were non-violent but said the conflicting information prompted the city to suspend the program for further investigation into inmate backgrounds.
“While the prison confirmed again (Monday) that the inmates released to the city are non-violent, we need confirmation and further background analysis to assure our residents that the inmates in this program are, in fact, non-violent,” Cotter said. “We have a duty to be extra cautious.”
The program was implemented in October — over the objections of some members of the public — with inmates working to clear brush and weeds from parks and shorlines and to assist with crack sealing of roadways. No incidents have been reported.
Opposition to the program came from two distinct fronts: those worried about public safety with inmates working in parks and those upset that Bullhead City was farming out work to the prison system — at a cost of 50 cents per worker per hour — instead of offering employment to local citizens.
Cotter maintained the program was implemented as a low-cost method of augmenting — not replacing — city services and had no effect on the city’s number of employees.
The prison, operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corp., was originally established as a minimum- and medium-security facility to house non-violent convicts, primarily those in substance-abuse programs. But the facility began housing violent criminals — including those convicted of murder and rape — several years ago. Three inmates, all convicted of violent crimes, escaped in 2010 and two of the escapees are charged with murder in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple killed in New Mexico during the escapees’ flight from justice.
Failures in the prison’s security were cited as contributing to the escape. Since then, the prison has upgraded its physical security and increased training of employees charged with overseeing prisoners.