The Arizona Department of Corrections has said that it will come to Kingman to address residents' concerns only after the last of the four fugitives involved in the July 30 prison break are caught. Whenever that is.
The last credible sighting of John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch was Aug. 6 near Billings, Mont. So it's got to be any day now, right?
I'm fairly certain that ADOC is not out there actively following up on possible sightings. That's more a job for the U.S. marshals, like Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive." I mean, I can't really picture ADOC director Chuck Ryan chasing Kimble, I mean McCluskey, down a storm drain. So why isn't he here to personally answer for what happened?
Ryan replaced former director Dora Schriro in January 2009. Prior to that, he served as deputy director of prison operations as well as a prison warden and a prison administrator. According to the ADOC's website, Ryan was the one who came up with the inmate classification system that allowed convicted killers to be classified as Level 3 offenders and be housed at a medium-security prison.
It was this classification that allowed Tracy Province, convicted of stabbing someone around 50 times, to be reclassified from a Level 5 to a Level 4 22 months after he was admitted into prison in 1993. Three years later, he was reclassified again, this time to a Level 3.
It took Johnathan Doody, one of two men convicted of killing nine people in the state's worse mass murder, just four years to go from a Level 5 to a Level 3. He was being housed in the Kingman prison up until two weeks ago.
Seems like Ryan should at least have to explain this system to people who were reassured over and over when this facility was built that it was to house only low-level drug and DUI offenders.
An article with the headline "Prison proposal draws mixed audience at Kingman meeting" was published in the Miner Nov. 4, 2002. It reads in part:
"The Department of Corrections proposal is to construct a 1,400-bed private prison at the Griffith junction to house male DUI prisoners. The DOC has identified the DUI inmates as a one-way prison population that can be successfully and safely placed in privately operated prisons.
"Scott Smith, DOC administrator for private prisons, said the prison would be monitored by four DOC employees and follow strict DOC guidelines. DOC makes all the decisions on sentences, placement, time served and any other legal issues."
According to several sources, the ADOC began placing violent offenders, including those convicted of murder, into the prison within months of its August 2004 opening.
From security lapses the night of the escape to Welch's non-arrest when she was caught bringing heroin into the prison six week prior, there's plenty of blame to go around for where the situation finds itself at the moment.
But the fact is, the ADOC was the one with ultimate responsibility. They are, after all, the ones responsible for "sentences, placement, time served and any other legal issues."
Thus far, the only criticism to come from Director Ryan is about his concern over the "lax security" on the part of personnel employed by Management and Training Corporation, which operates the prison under a private contract. There has been no explanation as to why residents were misled from the beginning about the prison's population.
On Thursday, the ADOC announced that it had transferred most of the murderers from the Kingman prison to a new facility. That's essentially admitting that the prison was never built to house dangerous offenders serving life sentences who have every motivation to try to escape. That's a far cry from someone serving out a couple of years for drunken driving.
The news conference, by the way, was held in Phoenix.
It is time for Ryan to come to Mohave County to answer for what happened here.