AFSC-AZ to Gov. Ducey: It’s Time to Part Ways with Unfit Prisons Director

by AFSC-AZ Staff |

News broke over the weekend of a crisis at the state prison complex in Douglas, leaving incarcerated people there without water for days. Meanwhile, a continuing investigation by ABC15 revealed last week incidents of fires being set at the Lewis complex in Buckeye, with guards standing nearby, apparently told not to intervene to avoid having to report the incident to Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director Charles Ryan.

In the same week, KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins reported that pregnant inmates are giving birth alone in their cells and suffering miscarriages, due to lack of adequate prenatal care and nutrition.

In response to earlier scandals involving doors not properly locking at the Buckeye complex, Governor Doug Ducey tapped two retired state Supreme Court Justices to investigate the problem. One month later, they have not signed a contract or finalized the scope of the investigation.

The American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) has been monitoring conditions in prisons for more than 20 years. There is ample evidence of a consistent pattern of mismanagement, abuse, and neglect that stems from an organizational culture of dehumanization and disregard for human rights.

AFSC-AZ has respectfully requested a meeting with Gov. Ducey and his investigators to convey the urgent concerns of incarcerated people and their families about the failed leadership of ADC Director Ryan and to offer a new perspective for the way forward.

“If Gov. Ducey’s goal for ADC is to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate people, then he must acknowledge that Charles Ryan is unfit to lead the Department in that direction,” stated Caroline Isaacs, AFSC-AZ’s Program Director. “Ryan is one of the last vestiges of an outdated and ineffective culture of strict ‘custody-and-control’ prison management.”

Corrections has the third largest state agency budget, totaling over $1.1 billion annually. But the serious problems in our prison system present an additional burden on taxpayers. The state of Arizona has spent millions on attorney’s fees defending itself against a class action lawsuit over negligent prison medical care. Add to that multiple wrongful death settlements, the cost of riots and disturbances, and overtime pay for short-staffed units, and it is clear Arizona simply can’t afford Charles Ryan any longer.

Gov. Ducey is entrusted not only with taxpayers’ money, but with the lives of more than 42,000 incarcerated people. The number of preventable deaths, the horrible suffering from untreated medical conditions, and the violence and mistreatment beg for Gov. Ducey to take immediate action to remove Ryan as ADC Director and initiate a public search for a new Director, incorporating feedback and participation from key stakeholders, including those directly impacted by the prison system.

Please sign AFSC-AZ’s petition, asking Gov. Ducey to immediately fire Director Ryan.

American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) works to reduce the size and scope of the criminal punishment system in Arizona using research and documentation, advocacy, and policy reform to advance sentencing reform, halt prison expansion, and improve conditions of confinement.

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