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Ducey says report on faulty prison locks coming soon

By: - August 13, 2019 1:17 pm

Photo by Matthew Hendley | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Two former Arizona Supreme Court chief justices have finished their investigation into faulty cell door locks at the Lewis prison, and that report will soon be made public, according to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ducey told reporters on Tuesday that his office received the report by former Chief Justices Rebecca Berch and Ruth McGregor the day before. He said his staff is reviewing and summarizing the report, and ensuring there’s nothing in it that will compromise public safety. Once that is finished, the administration will release that report to the media, the governor said.

“We think that will provide a road map in terms of the action that will need to be done,” Ducey said.

The governor selected Berch and McGregor to head up an investigation after ABC15 revealed that some cell doors in several units at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis didn’t lock, which resulted in attacks on inmates and guards, and one inmate death. The former justices were tasked with investigating the locks and the Arizona Department of Corrections’ response to the problem, and with recommending possible remedies. 

The agency attributed the issue to inmate tampering with the locks. Videos from inside the Lewis prison obtained by ABC15 showed that the problem had existed since at least early 2018, and the agency told Arizona Mirror that it first learned of the faulty locks in November 2017.

A legislative panel in June approved nearly $18 million for a three-year plan to replace the locks. 

Berch and McGregor’s report comes as Charles Ryan, the Department of Corrections’ embattled director, prepares to leave the agency after 10 years at its helm. Ryan announced last week that he’ll step down from the position, effective Sept. 13. He was originally appointed in 2009 by then-Gov. Jan Brewer, and Ducey kept him on board after taking office in 2015.

Ducey on Tuesday lauded Ryan for 40 years of service to the state and to the country, saying Department of Corrections director is a difficult position to hold. He said the state is conducting a national search to find the best possible person to serve as the department’s next director.

“This is a big agency and these are big shoes to fill,” Ducey said.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”