by AFSC-AZ Staff |
The recent scandal over broken door locks at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye, Arizona, has put Charles “Chuck” Ryan, the head of Arizona’s Department of Corrections (ADC), in the hot seat. Calls for his resignation are coming from House Democrats, newspaper columnists, and advocacy organizations. But a little trip down memory lane reveals that anybody who’d done their homework would’ve known that Ryan was always a bad pick for running the state’s prison system.
Ryan’s current tenure at ADC is not his first. He was the second-in-command there when Terry Stewart was Director from 1995-2002. He took over as Interim after Stewart retired, then retired himself and went to work for Stewart’s consulting firm (Advanced Correctional Management), which lobbied for private prison companies. The Stewart-Ryan administration has been described thusly:
“Ryan, a 25-year Arizona DOC veteran, became Stewart’s deputy director in 1996 and was seen by some as an integral part of his regime, which also drew criticism for the long-term, intense segregation of high-risk inmates, and for a failed effort to build a private prison exclusively for the state’s foreign inmates, who happened to be overwhelmingly Mexican. Dan Pochoda, a New York civil rights lawyer, was assigned by the federal government to monitor the conditions in the Arizona prison system just prior to Stewart’s taking the reins.
‘Even in the spectrum of corrections administrators, [Stewart and Ryan] are uniquely hard line, and in my opinion, acknowledged proponents of conditions that are damaging on a human level,’ [Pochoda] said of Stewart and Ryan.”
But the most shocking skeleton in Ryan’s closet is his ties to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where prisoners were tortured and sexually humiliated. Both Ryan and Stewart were hired by the U.S. State Department in 2003 and 2004 to set up the Iraqi prison system, including the Abu Ghraib facility that would later become synonymous with prisoner abuse.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called for an investigation into how Stewart won the job in Iraq, given his “shocking record of tolerating prisoner abuse” while in Arizona. The charges were investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, though officials failed to fault Stewart or Ryan for directly abusing detainees in Iraqi prisons. (You can view the DOJ Abu Ghraib investigation here.)
Schumer was referring to a 1997 lawsuit by the Department of Justice following an investigation into sexual abuse of incarcerated women in Arizona state prisons. The DOJ report found “an unconstitutional pattern of the practice of sexual misconduct,” and criticized ADC officials for ignoring the problem.
Stewart later went on to start the Dunn-Stewart Group, which did “consulting” for Management and Training Corporation (which was running the Kingman prison during the notorious 2010 escapes and 2015 riots) and Corizon, which held the medical contract with ADC until the rampant mismanagement, neglect, and abuse revealed by the Parsons v. Ryan class-action suit prompted the state to hand the contract over to another for-profit prisoner medical outfit, Centurion.
When Jan Brewer became Arizona’s Governor in 2009, she brought Ryan back out of “retirement” and appointed him Interim Director, and he’s been there ever since. Ryan was one of several agency heads Doug Ducey chose to retain when he was elected in 2015.
AFSC-Arizona opposed his appointment in 2009, and today, we are renewing our plea to Gov. Ducey to remove Chuck Ryan from his position as Corrections Director. The patterns of abuse, mismanagement, and disregard for the rights of incarcerated people cannot be tolerated.
To sign our petition, asking Gov. Ducey to remove Chuck Ryan from ADC, click here.
And join our friends at the ACLU of Arizona tomorrow, May 3, outside ADC’s offices in Phoenix to call on Gov. Ducey to demand Chuck Ryan’s resignation. Find out more here.