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Gov. Ducey authorizes 2 investigations into prison security issues

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey has authorized two investigations into the Arizona Department of Corrections in the wake of reports about security issues at a prison complex near Phoenix.

On Tuesday, Ducey said the state hired former Arizona Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Berch and Ruth McGregor to conduct an independent, third-party investigation into problems related to cell locks at Lewis Prison in Buckeye.

A day earlier, Ducey’s office launched a state probe with a team of law enforcement officials, including members of Homeland Security, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Fire Marshal office.

“There’s no excuse for any situation that compromises public safety at our prisons,” said Ducey said in a press release.

“We need the facts and we need to make sure a situation like this never happens again.”

The release said Berch and McGregor will look into how locks at the prison were tampered with and how the Department of Corrections responded.

Their report will include recommendations for policy changes.

ABC15 reported last week that inmates have been able to get out of their cells and assault guards and each other.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan told the TV station recently that money — millions of dollars — targeted for repairs to cell locks and security had been diverted to other projects.

The union representing guards at Arizona’s prisons joined with an inmate rights group on Tuesday to demand that the state immediately fix the security problems.

Carlos Garcia of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association accused the department of negligence for the door lock problems.

“We’ve had one inmate killed because of doors not being fixed by this administration, two staff severely beaten with countless more that went under the table simply because they were deemed a low-level thing,” said Garcia, a retired correctional officer.

“It’s inappropriate, completely inappropriate.”

The department said that inmates tampered with the locks by inserting “small objects in a way that allowed doors to close and show a positive lock on the control board.”

Prisoners repeatedly found ways around corrective measures. Eventually, some doors were padlocked, a violation of the state fire code.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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