Are Arizona’s private prisons in need of serious reform? This question was sparked after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently cut ties with a prison operator after riots broke out resulting in injuries, the evacuation of thousands of inmates, building damage and an investigation into the prison’s management.
The Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) conducted an investigative report on the prison, and noted the private operator of the Golden Valley facility, Management & Training Corporation (MTC), had “a culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard” of the DOC’s security, inmate safety and management policies.
More significant findings from the report stated MTC failed to conduct important staff training required by the state and hid this information from DOC; that the riots were not effectively handled and went on for longer than they should have, resulting in increased damage to the prison; and that the inmates were likely dissatisfied with the operation of the prison because frustration and violence during the riot were directed at the prison staff and to damaging the facility – not to one another.
MTC took full responsibility for the uncontrolled riots that occurred in July, but insisted that the DOC investigation was flawed.
With Arizona having the sixth highest incarceration rate in the country, some believe although Ducey has terminated the Kingman prison operator’s contract, cutting ties might not be enough to improve the Kingman prison or any other management issues that may exist at other facilities.
More than two months after the riot, few improvements regarding how the facility will be managed have been announced, other than the fact that it will be contracted to another private, for-profit operator.
As Arizona looks forward from this event, many questions regarding whether the state’s prisons are capable of maintaining proper security and what will happen moving forward are left unanswered.