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Prison whistleblower wants Ducey to be more involved with broken locks

Shaun Holland, associate deputy warden at Lewis Prison in Buckeye, talks about the problem of broken locks during a press conference in Phoenix on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX – The whistleblower who accused administrators at a Phoenix-area prison of closing out repair orders for cell locks that remained broken has a message for Gov. Doug Ducey:

“Come down and get involved. Talk to the people in the trenches,” Shaun Holland, associate deputy warden at Lewis Prison in Buckeye, said Thursday at a press conference.

“Go move doors. Put his hands on the doors, see what we’re talking about.”

Holland filed a whistleblower complaint to Ducey and new Arizona Department of Corrections Director David Shinn on Monday.

The complaint alleges that hundreds of repair orders have been marked as completed even though no work was done on the doors and locks.

Holland also reported that he’s seen work crews hired for repairs “toy with broken doors” and mark them as repaired in official records even though they remained broken.

He said he’s been reporting his concerns up the chain of command repeatedly with no response.

“I’ve been an advocate about door safety and staff safety and inmate safety and security for years,” Holland said.

“I’ve done thousands and thousands of work orders. It is in the system.”

Ducey responded to the complaint by expressing his confidence in Shinn, whom the governor appointed to head up the corrections department in October.

Holland’s comments came during a press conference with the state corrections officer union.

“The public is in absolute danger. Staff are in even worse danger,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association.

“It’s unacceptable. They were supposed to fix the doors. Have they done it? Absolutely not.”

Prison reform activist Donna Hamm said at the press conference that prison surveillance videos of inmates leaving their cells as they pleased made the state a “laughing stock.” She also called for an independent monitor with authority to conduct unannounced prison inspections and report directly to the governor.

Hamm’s nonprofit group, Middle Ground Prison Reform, sent a letter to Ducey on Tuesday saying Shinn should be fired if he knew about the content of Holland’s complaint and failed to act.

The letter also said if Shinn’s staff wasn’t communicating the problems to him, he needs to clean house.

Ducey told reporters at an unrelated event Thursday that Shinn is off to a solid start and disputed the notion that fixing the problems with broken cell locks isn’t at the top of his list.

“Of course these locks are a top priority,” Ducey said. “We want our prisons to be safe, not only for our correctional officers but for our inmates. We realize that we have an issue around these locks and we’re addressing it, not only with new doors but with additional resources.”

State lawmakers this year approved millions of dollars to fix broken doors at Lewis Prison after leaked videos showed inmates leaving their cells and ambushing corrections officers.

In April, ABC15 published surveillance video from six assaults inside the prison that occurred between June and December 2018.

Some of the incidents led to serious physical injuries on officers. One inmate was beaten to death.

An independent report commissioned by Ducey was completed in August. It noted problems with the corrections department’s staffing, budget, training, security checks, reporting system, communications, leadership and funding.

Longtime Corrections Director Charles Ryan retired a month after the report was released.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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