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Corrections drops disciplinary action against Lewis Prison whistleblower

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it has rescinded all disciplinary action against the whistleblower who leaked videos of prison doors not locking at a West Valley prison.

Sgt. Ana (who also goes by Gabriela) Contreras will no longer face punishment for sharing information about problems at Lewis Prison in Buckeye, according to corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder.

Wilder said after the department was made aware of allegations of retaliation on May 17, it initiated a review.

Contreras and four other correctional officers part of the investigation will have disciplinary action removed from their files, be eligible for promotions and be reimbursed for lost wages.

“It’s imperative that officers and personnel feel encouraged to raise concerns to leadership when they have them,” Wilder said in a statement. “Director Ryan’s open-door policy for all employees is an example of the department’s commitment to open communication.

“The department continues to work diligently to identify and implement a long-term solution to lock and door issues at Lewis Prison. The voices of our officers will be critical as we move forward, and we will continue to make ourselves available to them.”

The disciplinary actions that were dropped include two 40-hour suspensions, two 16-hour suspensions and a letter of reprimand.

The problems at Lewis Prison came to light last month after an ABC15 report, which included the leaked videos, revealed that some prisoners had been carrying out attacks on correctional officers and other inmates after letting themselves out of their cells.

The surveillance footage from June through December 2018 showed inmates initiating violent beatings. One inmate died in the hospital four days after being attacked in his cell.

The department said inmates had tampered with locking mechanisms to keep the cells from being properly secured.

Doors were padlocked in response, a violation of state fire codes, but the state fire marshal temporarily allowed the padlocks.

Ryan reportedly has known about the broken locks since May 2018, but millions of dollars targeted for repairs had been diverted to other projects.

Gov. Doug Ducey authorized a third-party, independent investigation of the Department of Corrections last month as well as a state probe by a team of law enforcement officials.

More than 700 inmates were relocated from Lewis to prisons in Winslow, Florence, Tucson, Yuma and Douglas this month.

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