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Arizona Department of Corrections Charles Ryan announces retirement

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan, who’s been under fire for his handling of state prison system issues, announced his retirement Friday.

Ryan made it known that Sept. 13 would be his last day after more than 10 years on the job in a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey and a separate email to DOC staff.

“Director Ryan has committed his life to serving in the corrections field for more than 40 years,” Ducey said in a statement.

“His dedication to ensuring public safety and providing inmates a real second chance, has made him a nationally recognized leader. … I’m grateful to Director Ryan for his dedication and service.”

Neither Ducey nor any of his aides asked Ryan to step down, said Patrick Ptak, the governor’s spokesman.

Ryan expressed gratitude to his staff in both notes.

Before becoming director, he’d worked in the department as deputy director of prison operations, a warden and an administrator.

“Though there is more to be done, now is the time for me to pursue new opportunities and rededicate myself to my family which has served and sacrificed in support of me throughout my public service career,” Ryan wrote.

There have been calls for Ryan to step down in recent months after reports of how he addressed the issue broken locks on cells at the Lewis Prison in Buckeye.

There were several assaults of inmates and correctional officers because of the lock failures.

In response, Ryan reportedly ordered some cells to be padlocked, despite it being a violation of fire codes.

ABC15 reported in April that Ryan had been aware of the broken locks since May 2018 but chose to spend millions meant to repair them and security on other projects.

Additionally, Ryan’s department been cited for failing to improve health care for inmates as was promised in a 2014 lawsuit.

In June, a judge found Ryan to be in civil contempt of court and fined the state $1.4 million for failing to adequately improve health care for inmates.

Several prisons have faced water support shortages, including one in Douglas that went without running water for days after a well ran dry.

The American Friends Service Committee-Arizona — a Quaker organization that played a key role in the movement to fire Ryan — called on Ducey to ensure the next director “will lead the department with integrity” and take it “in a bold new direction.”

“This moment provides a crucial opportunity to correct the serious, systemic issues in ADC and heal the wounds in our community,” the group said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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