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Saturday, August 18, 2007

CCA Facility in AZ Slammed

The heads of the education and addiction-treatment programs at a private Arizona prison holding Hawaii inmates abruptly quit their jobs complaining of poor management, inadequate facilities and lack of staffing.

Their resignations came just days before an Aug. 3 incident in which the staff at Saguaro Correctional Facility inadvertently opened security doors, releasing Hawaii inmates from their cells. Seven inmates left their cells when the doors opened, one was injured in a fight with another inmate and a third inmate had to be subdued for refusing to return to his cell, Hawaii Department of Public Safety officials said.

Rich Stokes was the principal at Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy. Michael VanSlyke was the facility's addiction treatment manager.

"They essentially walked out," said Steve Owen, spokesman for the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Saguaro facility. "Their leaving was not expected."

Stokes and VanSlyke did not explain their departures to CCA officials but instead sent e-mails to Shari Kimoto, state Department of Public Safety mainland branch administrator.

In the e-mails, Stokes said upper management at the facility spies on staff, controls all communication with the outside, and devalues and degrades inmates and programs for them. He said water runs into cells when inmates take showers because the drains are higher than the surrounding floors, the air-conditioning system experiences frequent failure and staff are often locked in or out of their units because doors cannot be opened.

Gates and doors are opened when they should be closed and closed when they should be open because there are not enough correctional officers, Stokes said, adding that the officers who are there are overworked and undertrained.

VanSlyke's e-mail said Saguaro does not have adequate facilities to treat inmates and will never qualify for inpatient licensing as required by CCA's contract with Hawaii. He also said the qualifications required of counselors made it impossible for him to hire an adequately sized staff in time to start an addiction treatment program.

Owen said Saguaro already has over half the staff it needs to run the education and addiction treatment programs and expects to have them running by Oct. 1.

Owen said Stokes and VanSlyke filed no formal complaints about conditions before resigning.

CCA hires people with no prior experience working in corrections, like Stokes and VanSlyke, for their subject-area expertise, Owen said.

"Its just one of those things where it didn't work out," he said.

Hawaii's Department of Public Safety is sending an inspection team to Saguaro following the Aug. 3 incident.

An audit team was already scheduled to be in Arizona last week, said Louise Kim McCoy, state Public Safety spokeswoman. Deputy Director for Corrections Tommy Johnson is also in Arizona for the audit team's visit, she said.

McCoy said Johnson will be checking the programs at Saguaro, employee training records, staffing and security features of the facility.

Saguaro has a design capacity for 1,896 inmates. As of last week, there were 696 Hawaii inmates housed there, McCoy said.


Star Bulletin

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