Ariz. severs ties with prison operator over July riots

Bob Christie
Associated Press

Phoenix — Arizona severed ties Wednesday with a private prison operator over what the state says was a string of troubling security and training lapses that led to violent riots in July.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced the action against Management and Training Corp. after the state released a scathing report about numerous issues at the Kingman prison, including a “culture of casual indifference toward staff and training” that contributed to the riots.

The state said the prison completed none of the mandated supervisor training for the 2015 fiscal year and claimed the company offers minimal training in communication skills and crisis intervention for its guards.

“What happened at Kingman was frightening, disturbing and completely unacceptable,” Ducey said at a news conference.

It’s not immediately clear what happens next as the state tries to end its partnership with Management and Training Corp., a leading player in an industry that has expanded in recent years as budget-minded states looked to move prison operations to the private sector.

The state has a long-term contract with the company, and Ducey said the process is already underway to end the relationship and assign a new operator of the Kingman prison. He also said the state is asking the company to pay for all repairs from the riot damage.

The prison was the site of a 2010 escape in which three inmates broke out with the help of an accomplice who threw cutting tools onto the prison grounds. They escaped and went on a multistate crime spree that included the killing of a New Mexico couple. The state demanded sweeping changes, but the report says about one-third of deficiencies identified five years ago were recurring in 2015.

The unrest began July 1 in a minimum-security unit when private corrections officers tried to stop an inmate-on-inmate assault.

A full-blown riot broke out the next day in another unit.