Prison began housing mid-level inmates one year after opening

Charles Ryan

Charles Ryan

KINGMAN - Despite assurances that the Arizona State Prison in Golden Valley would house only DUI and other drug offenders, the Arizona Department of Corrections now admits that violent offenders were moved there just nine months after the facility opened in 2004.

It wasn't until 2007, however, that the ADOC says murderers were first brought to the facility. Violent medium-security offenders are now said to make up half of the prison's population of 3,390. Almost 150 inmates have been transferred out of the prison in recent weeks.

ADOC Director Charles Ryan said Thursday that the transfers are the result of tighter security restrictions imposed since the July 30 escape of three violent offenders. It was previously reported that 117 convicted killers serving life sentences were housed at the minimum- to medium-security facility at the time of the breakout.

Ryan said internal audits giving the prison high marks did not report security flaws that led to the escape, including a poorly functioning alarm system that had multiple false alarms, as well as a staffing gap that led to a perimeter post not being manned.

During a facility review of the prison by ADOC Aug. 4, officials observed a number of problems, including 75 percent of inmates without their identification cards, an alarm system that malfunctioned so often that staff no longer reacted to it and numerous other violations.

Only one perimeter patrol was in place the night of the escape and inmates were reportedly familiar with their pattern. The three inmates who escaped were able to exit out a door that had been propped open with a rock before climbing a 10-foot fence with no razor wire at the top. They then used cutting tools that were thrown to them to cut through the second fence.

So far, Complex Warden Darla Elliott, along with the Hualapai Unit warden, the chief of security and at least three correctional officers, have been "relieved of their duties" at the Kingman facility. Management and Training Corporation says it cannot comment on personnel and whether those employees have been fired or transferred.