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6/8/2014 6:00:00 AM
Raising the bars: Kingman prison made changes following 2010 breakout
Escapee gets heavy sentence for double murder
The Arizona State Prison-Kingman has upgraded its security measures and engaged in significant staff training in order to improve a facility that was blasted in an investigation following a 2010 prison breakout.  (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)
The Arizona State Prison-Kingman has upgraded its security measures and engaged in significant staff training in order to improve a facility that was blasted in an investigation following a 2010 prison breakout. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)
The escape, which involved, from left, John McCluskey, Casslyn Welch and Tracy Province, led to the murder of an Oklahoma couple. (Courtesy)
The escape, which involved, from left, John McCluskey, Casslyn Welch and Tracy Province, led to the murder of an Oklahoma couple. (Courtesy)
Million dollar remedy
The first glaring, blaring problem fixed at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman following the escape of three violent convicts on July 30, 2010, was a security system that sounded false alarms so frequently that staff didn't bother responding.

Here's what else they did to help keep inmates inside prison walls:


• Increased the number of officers patrolling the perimeter.

• Equipped perimeter vehicles with handheld high-intensity lights.

• Increased foot patrols.

• Routed traffic away from perimeter road.

• Increased random inmate pat searches.


• Implemented aggressive perimeter intrusion training

• Increased inner and outer fence checks. There was no outer fence at the time of the escape. One has since been installed, creating a so-called "no man's land" for inmates.

• Staff was certified in maintaining and repairing a brand-new alarm system and increased response training.

• Installed barriers and blocking gates on shared-use roads.

• Installed alarms on all doors (as opposed to using rocks to prop them open).


• Constructed a new half-mile road to keep unofficial vehicles away from prison

• Used mock escapes for training purposes.


A 150-foot security fence was installed between dorms.


1,400 feet of razor wire fence was installed at key locations throughout the complex.


Barriers were installed next to canopies in the Hualapai and Cerbat units.


A mile-long second perimeter fence was installed around the Hualapai unit, which is medium security while Cerbat is minimum security. The fence is 10 feet high and with four strands of wire it exceeds state prison standards.

"We've made a significant amount of improvements both physically and culturally," said Issa Arnita, MTC's director of corporate communications. "And we will continue to improve."

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - The private company that operates the Arizona State Prison-Kingman invested about $1 million to correct a host of problems at the facility in Golden Valley in the wake of a 2010 escape that led to the murders of two people.

Security has been enhanced inside and outside the prison. Command staff and rank-and-file employees continue to train for such incidents, according to MTC, the company that runs the prison, and Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan.

"Night and day," said Sheahan when asked to give his opinion of security at the prison between the escape and today.

To be sure, a blistering report that resulted from an investigation following the breakout left no doubt the facility had nowhere to go but up.

A poorly trained and inexperienced staff, inadequate command of inmates, and mostly incompetent management were all problems noted by a team of Arizona Department of Corrections investigators following the July 30, 2010 escape of three men serving long sentences for murder or attempted murder - who were at a prison that was built on the promise it would house low-level offenders such as those with DUI convictions.

No problem, however, likely contributed to the escape and its chaotic immediate aftermath more than a terribly and chronically flawed alarm system that, apparently, nobody thought needed to be addressed.

Rather than fix what would seem to be a critical problem, employees were told to quit writing reports each time a false alarm sounded.

For Gary and Linda Haas, who were murdered by escapee John McCluskey in New Mexico three days later, the flaw proved to be fatal.

McCluskey last week received a term of life plus 235 years in federal prison.

For months, alarms would sound along the perimeter of the prison for no reason anyone who worked there could figure out.

Nobody knew how to maintain it, nobody knew how to adjust its sensitivity and nobody had even a fair idea how the thing worked.

The installer did not maintain the system and the IT people tried in vain to figure out why the mere suggestion of a breeze seemed sufficient to set it off.

The incessant bogus alerts rendered the staff complacent, so when McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick escaped from the Arizona State Prison-Kingman that summer night nearly four years ago with the help of Casslyn Welch, they knew they had a chance to really get away.

While there were myriad issues at the prison leading up to the trio crawling through a hole they cut in the perimeter fence, the reaction afterward is even more difficult to comprehend.

For one, it took 80 minutes for the prison to notify law enforcement, giving the three men and Welch, McCluskey's cousin and fiancée, more than enough time to kidnap a pair of truckers on Interstate 40.

"They never would have made it to Interstate 40 if the prison didn't wait an hour and 20 minutes to call us," said Sheriff Tom Sheahan. "They had a pretty good amount of time to get away."

The sheriff often posts double shifts on Fridays, and July 30, 2010 was a Friday.

"I had 10 or 12 deputies there within 10 to 15 minutes and I had 35 deputies there within 45 minutes. There is no way (the escapees) could have reached I-40 if they called us when they found the hole in the fence," he said.

But they didn't, and an hour and a half passed. The only description prison staff could give Sheahan was to tell him they were wearing orange clothes. Their booking mug shots were outdated - one was 10 years old.

"The whole prison was very disoriented and that surprised me," said Sheahan. "I was also surprised that a DUI prison had murderers and other dangerous people."

Since the escape, about 100 men convicted of violent crimes that were in the prison at the time have been transferred.

Since then, said the sheriff, both the prison and staff have undergone significant changes.

"It is completely different," said Sheahan. "The attitude is professional, they have quite a few new people in upper management and there's been a vast improvement in the alarm system."

These days, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office and prison personnel train together to better respond to incidents.

"The big thing is, they call us now even if they're not sure someone is missing or not," he said. "They've learned it's better to be safe than sorry."

The prison made wholesale changes both in how prisoners are secured and how employees are trained. An argument could be made those changes have proved sufficient since nobody else has escaped from the facility since that night.

"The difference between then and now is night and day," said Sheahan.

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Related Stories:
• Kingman prison break accomplice says prosecutors broke a promise
• Wheels of change roll for Kingman inmates - and the people they help
• Life, and then some, for McCluskey

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014
Article comment by: UKNOWN PRISON EMPLOYEE

If everyone on the outside knew how hard the staff here is praying that the ADOC will come in and take over for the incompetent management that is STILL here they would be in shock. The low pay makes it impossible to keep qualified people at the facility. The officers are STILL poorly trained. In fact the standasrds have been severly compromised in order to get people hired on. There are only two types of people employed here those who have no other opportunites and those that are in the corrupt management family. Makes for a very unstable dangerous enviroment. Time will tell.

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014
Article comment by: YouTube Private Prisons

Check out private prisons on YouTube.

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

They still have murderers housed there. This information is coming to you from an employee who works there. Not much has changed, except their deceiving you, the public who are in danger of escapes happening again.

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Article comment by: Offended by Those Wanting to Save Tax Money by Allowing Slave Labor

I read the comments about why we need to use convict labor with astonishment. I do not want to justify slave labor by saying we are saving tax payer money. I was told these prisoners volunteer for these work details because they get out in the fresh air, they're thankful for the chance to do something constructive instead of just siting in their cells, and they obtain an appreciation for working in a group to achieve something. As long as these are the reasons for these work details then they should continue. If these work details are seen solely as a way for us to save tax payers' money, they must stop immediately.

There's one commenting here sanctioning slave labor. The mentality is save tax money regardless. Stop this ridiculous philosophy. A society costs. There's costs to supply water, offer police and fire protection, maintaining public grounds etc., etc. which is borne by all of us. There is no reason, absolutely no reason for our society to resort to slave labor under no conditions.

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Article comment by: They Are Felons!

Criminals give up their rights and licenses when they go to prison. What would the Registrar of Contractors do to you or me if we were working contracted jobs without a license? Prisoners should not be given skilled labor jobs.

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Attn: "Lets bankrupt local governments"

It's not just the fact that there were a few escapes at this prison, It's much more than that!

They had hard time convicts in the prison-they weren't suppose to!
They had an inoperable security alarm on the perimeter of the prison-they weren't suppose to!
They had untrained prison guards-they weren't suppose to!
They allowed any vehicle to drive right up to the perimeter of the prison w/o any trouble-they weren't suppose to!
They didn't have an outer fence surrounding the prison, like most prisons do, and they didn't even have alarms on most interior doors!

All of this unbelievable! But then that's the way Buster Johnson wanted it, right?

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“I wonder if folks know convicts are being used to work at schools?’

This reminds of Jack Hakim, the mayor of Bullhead City, who when confronted said prisoners would not be working in the parks where children play (a lie) and that the prisoners working in the city would not be felons – a lie of the most magnificent magnitude considering EVERY prisoner at the GV, for-profit, private prison is a felon.

We were lied to from day one about that disaster and have paid dearly for it in human lives and once the lawsuits against the county start we will pay even more.

Prison labor is wrong – period – and anyone too stupid to see that is…well, you know.

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: @Bankrupt Local Governments

Good point. We could save the taxpayers even more money if we fired all of the city workers and put prisoners to work in those jobs. Firemen, road crews, forest workers...the list goes on. By the way murders are not acceptable because they happen in more than one place.,

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: What If It Was Women

What if it was a womens prison, and they rented the women out to do whatever? What would you call it then?

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: Lets bankrupt local governments

It's time people wake up. Utilizing inmate labor is not only good for the inmates in they are required to give back it is good for the municipalities and agencies who use them. We see the naysayers tell us give those jobs to citizens and while I agree we should have more jobs, it comes down to simple economics. The city of Kingman can get 5 inmates for pennies on the dollar or not hire anybody. The average person will need to be paid a wage, insurance, retirement, etc.. What is this cost and who is paying it? Let me help you the tax payers. Find someone willing to work as hard as an inmate for minimum wage or less.

As for the escape it is unfortunate, but I took a few minutes and did a search and found that it isn’t just private prisons who have had escapes. You can find weekly inmates escaping from secure custody in state, federal and county prisons and jails (to include Mohave county). Escapes happen unfortunately and murders as a result while uncommon happen. This is not a new thing or a private prison thing.

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: just worried

Are you really sure how this prison is run? I have heard that the employees have no say and the inmates run it. The employees all have to work overtime, it is mandatory. If they do not they can be fired. Also they are all involved in affairs. They get caught fooling around with each other and no one is let go.... so tell me how safe are we really?

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: joker wilde

I saw a man in an orange DOC uniform working at La Senita School the other day. I wonder if folks know convicts are being used to work at schools? If that's true, it's not right.

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: DOLLAR BILL

"I and others who identify themselves as the Tea Party will always be targeted and lambasted by liberal democrats".

That is because you have tried to overwhelm the Republican party and make them into YOUR image. Is the tea party that shallow? Most Republican politicians will go along with anything that will save their cushy jobs.
Why don't you try something different. Show the American public that you can create JOBS!
You could win me easily with this approach as I am a Registered Independent! I really don't care who is democrat/republican. The two parties are dividing and conquering this Country from within. The World laughs at us on a daily basis! Let's tell them about the NEW JOBS the tea party is going to help us create!

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: Orange Is The New Black

When plantation owners auctioned off blacks for hard work,the people hated it and fought a war to stop it.
Now the prison owners are auctioning off orange clad convicts for big profits for the very same reason. Convicts owe a debt to society, not to prison owners.

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

Why do we have Private for Profit Tax-Funded Prisons? End prison slavery now. Free the people that committed crimes against no one. No victim, no crime. Stop taking jobs away from the citizens of Mohave County and giving them to inmates for .50 cents an hour.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

"They are being hired for jobs honest people should have: human trafficking for the profit of the prison."

And you have evidence to back up your claim, right? Didn't think so.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: CHANGES MR. C.

Changes that come to late, a wife and husband "dead". All because of what??? be happy he faced federal charges...

Someone runs from the law, slams into a vehicle, after running a stop sign. He won't stand trail as original charged because of what?? The pursuing police car wasn't?? properly marked.

Anyone eve hear about UN-marked police cars?

You don't need news laws, what you really need are new prosecutors.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Tea Partier!

Re: "When Are The Voters Going to Vote Out the Party of Corruption?"

Yes, I agree and especially with all these comments about this tragedy and this corrupt private prison, which was an obvious corrupt sweetheart deal between the State of Arizona and Mohave County.

And don’t forget, along with Sheriff Sheahan, Supervisor Buster Johnson also pushed big time for this prison, as well as the inefficient and unnecessary water-wasting Griffith Energy Plant several years ago.

As a conservative Republican (and not in name only) I want to vote out all corrupt politicians, especially those in my party. That is the goal of the “Tea Party”, or at least has always been my goal. However, unfortunately I and others who identify themselves as the Tea Party will always be targeted and lambasted by liberal democrats.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Smith

Some readers are correct, though they don't know the profiteering details.

The prison was built when Republican legislators who'd been greased for decades by the for-profit prison industry forced it on the state. Napolitano fought its construction, but her DOC was held a budgetary hostage until it was approved for low-level offenders.

It was built thanks to promotion by Texas con men. Buster Johnson was the original promoter of this garbage, in 1997, when corrupt operator BRG tried to sell the scheme to the Mohave Economic Development Corporation.

The EDC likely paid three times what it was worth, via a bond issue. It wasn't a bid job:

The scam is called "design/build/operate" so there are zero cost controls, no contractual oversight. There are just promises that money will rain from the skies. No one has ever taken a good look at Buster's role, nor that of the EDC's convicted counterfeiter Don Van Brundt, in saddling the community with this dangerous operation.

It was never intended to be anything but a stage set that pretended to be a real prison.

Brewer made things considerably worse when she deliberately sent escape risks, violent neo-Nazi cons to a pen that was intrinsically insecure. She and MTC always covered for each other.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: When Are The Voters Going to Vote Out the Party of Corruption?

This private prison company should have been run out on a rail. This outfit lied from the beginning - only DUIs and other low risk prisoners. Did the state correction big wigs, state representatives, county sheriff, etc putting their initials on the company's application documents investigate their operations before their application was approved? Heads should roll, law suites should be filed.

Greed from the very beginning
* building was built with state or federal money - probably some fancy little set up like a "lease back" - $$$ to the land owner, the builder, certainly to the building's owner collecting huge monthly payments
* they lied about what was to be housed since they knew there would be a real fight
* $$$ is the real reason it went from DUIs to murderers - our state money pays a lot more per prisoner for a murderer = more money for the CEO.
* hire Joe off the street with no prison experience. Pay bare minimum. Not pay a dime to train workers. More money for the CEO

We were sold out by our Republican representatives and officials. Heck we all know they only care about their friends, business associates & most importantly themselves. Which of them holds the company stock?

Sheriff, are you sure there are no more murderers at that prison? I've heard differently.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: DOLLAR BILL

Ah , privatization!

Why wasn't this prison performing in a professional way from the start?

Because we have to please the investors! Cut professionalism and corners every chance we get..we've got to make more money! Greed people, Greed!

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

Why it makes sense to let a private corp. be responsible for the safety of the citizens of Kingman or for that matter any city or state is beyond me. Corporations are interested in just one thing for the most part and that one thing is the bottom line. How nice that they spent a million dollars to make the prison more secure after one of their guests broke out and killed a couple. When they built the prison we were told that no dangerous prisoners would be housed there. I for one will feel so much safer tonight when I go to sleep. I wonder how much the victims family thinks should have been spent before these prisoners escaped and killed their loved ones. I know that the Republicans love to privatize everything so their cronies can reap all those profits from things that should not be for profit, and this is what you get when you can't run a government properly. This state needs new leadership and we need it bad.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Not to beat a dead horse, but having incompetent and poorly trained employees, along with a alarm system that doesn't work properly, is a pretty good resume for a prison, don't you think???

I love the private sector when they make a little mistake(s) and people get murdered. They try to dismiss the whole thing and pretend it never happened!

"Night and day," said Sheahan.

Yeah, tell that to those poor family members in Oklahoma!

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Fire Protection

That prison should not be allowed to trade prisoners for fire protection. They need to pay money like every other business outside of that fire district.Of course they volunteer,so would you if your other choice was a cage.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Private Prisons Are Big, Greedy Corporations

I'm sure this is all very comforting to the families of Gary and Linda Haas.Those convicts and ones like them are in your Golden Valley Neighborhoods. They are being hired for jobs honest people should have: human trafficking for the profit of the prison. You & I would have to pass background checks & drug tests to get those jobs.

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