PHOENIX—The American Friends Service Committee of Arizona, a non-profit criminal justice reform organization, has released an assessment of the July 2015 riots in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Kingman, Arizona. The prison, managed by for-profit corporation Management and Training Corporation, was rocked by a series of disturbances beginning July 1st, that caused such significant damage to the facility that over 1,000 prisoners had to be relocated.
Click here to view the report: AFSC Kingman Assessment 2015
Governor Doug Ducey ordered the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to investigate the cause of the riots. While any and all information coming from the Department in regards to these incidents is welcome, the American Friends Service Committee has serious concerns about the ADC’s ability to impartially assess all the factors that contributed to the riots—most significantly its own failure to properly monitor its contractors. The report is an effort to address issues that likely would not be addressed in the ADC’s review.
One of the major findings in the report is the under-reported fact that Department of Corrections’ tactical support personnel sent in to quell the riot were unnecessarily violent and disrespectful in their treatment of prisoners—whether they were involved in the disturbances or not.
It appears that several prisoners were injured after the riot by the Arizona Department of Corrections’ tactical support unit, rather than being assaulted by other prisoners.
Additional findings include several factors that all related to the corporation’s efforts to cut costs in order to make a profit from its contract:
- The most significant and persistent problem at Kingman is understaffing. Guards at Kingman are among the lowest paid in Arizona. Staff that are underpaid, undertrained, and have low morale are not willing or able to properly manage a prison, especially when disturbances arise.
- MTC guards were mistreating the people held in Kingman, relying on pepper spray and other heavy-handed approaches to behavior management, resulting in high levels of resentment among prisoners.
- The prison was poorly managed. Drugs were readily available, in many cases brought to the prison by guards. Prisoners were frequently locked down. The facility had a high rate of assaults.
The report concludes that the Department of Corrections failed in its responsibility to properly manage its contractor, detect and correct problems, and hold MTC accountable for persistent problems.
The American Friends Service Committee calls on the state to independently assess the safety and management of all the state’s privately-run prisons to prevent a similar incident in the future. It also calls for the cancellation of the contract with MTC for management of Kingman.
These issues are now before the state legislature, as it considers contracting for up to 2,000 additional beds. The Department issued a Request for Proposals for new medium-security beds in September of 2014. The American Friends Service Committee has called for the immediate cancellation of the RFP.
Program Director Caroline Isaacs, author of the report, remarked, “We must not be fooled again. No new contract should be signed until a thorough evaluation of Kingman and the five other privately operated prisons under contract demonstrates that these facilities are safe, cost effective, humanely run, and accountable to the public.”
The American Friends Service Committee is a non-profit organization that works for justice and human rights both nationally and internationally. The Arizona office, based in Tucson, advocates for criminal justice reform.
Available for interviews:
- A former staff person at the Kingman prison
- Family members of prisoners who were injured in the ADC’s response to the riot
Please contact Caroline Isaacs to arrange an interview.