Inmates moved, cleanup and repairs begin at prison

KINGMAN - Whatever problems remain at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman after days of disturbances and rioting, one fact is certain: Overpopulation is not one of them.

A total of 1,055 inmates were moved from the medium-security Hualapai Unit after inmates damaged four of five housing units so badly that they are considered uninhabitable.

"We're still assessing the damage," said Issa Arnita, director of corporate communications for Management and Training Corp., the Utah-based company that manages the facility in Golden Valley.

The first incident began Wednesday at the minimum-security Cerbat Unit after a group of inmates chased another inmate. Six correctional officers were treated for injuries at the Cerbat Unit in that incident.

Three more officers were injured the next night when prisoners in the Hualapai Unit rioted in what Arnita said was a completely unrelated incident. Arnita said the riot began after a single inmate became aggressive with a corrections officer.

More than 700 inmates were moved out of the prison on Friday and relocated due to damage caused in the riot, and more than 300 more were moved over the weekend, including more than 100 who were moved to a facility in Texas, according to Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections. About 100 armed members of ADOC's special tactical response unit descended on the prison Sunday when Gov. Doug Ducey visited the facility.

Roughly 450 inmates remain at the Hualapai Unit. No inmates were moved from Cerbat, which has about 2,000 prisoners.

On Saturday, four inmates received minor injuries in the third incident, which also occurred at the Hualapai Unit. According to corrections.com, an occupational website, the difference between a riot and a disturbance is a matter of degrees. Riots involve a large number of inmates who have gained control over some part of the prison. Disturbances, on the other hand, involve fewer inmates who have no control of part of the prison.

Arnita said things are "calm" and "back to normal" at both units and cleanup has begun.

"It was an unfortunate incident and we're beginning our after-action review," said Arnita. The Arizona Department of Corrections will conduct a similar review.

While the first incident at the Cerbat Unit was clearly less than a riot, the event at the Hualapai Unit was far more serious since four of five housing units were damaged severely enough to be deemed uninhabitable.

Still, the damage done in Golden Valley pales in comparison to a riot at another MTC-managed prison in Texas in February in which nearly 3,000 inmates - all undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation - virtually destroyed the $60 million South Texas facility in Raymondville, a town so poor the local dollar store shut down. That riot was due to conditions at the prison.

The federal Bureau of Prisons canceled its contract with MTC in Raymondville a few months later.

Ducey on Sunday told Mayor Richard Anderson that he intends to get to the bottom of what happened in Golden Valley, but the governor has also said he supports private prisons.

Not everyone shares that support. Arizona Republic columnist EJ Montini in Monday's edition wrote a scathing opinion on the recent incidents, pointing out they caused the state to move more than 1,000 inmates, drained resources from other agencies and a number of law enforcement agencies - all at a high cost to residents.

"For too long Arizona taxpayers have been held prisoner by the state's policy of allowing private prisons," he wrote.

Ducey, however, supports private prisons. In February he asked lawmakers to spend an additional $70 million - annually - to house more inmates in private prisons, where the daily cost of their care is less that what the government spends.

In January, an inmate was sexually assaulted and beaten by other prisoners and died at a hospital three days later, according to a legal claim filed by his family. The legal action says emergency responders weren't notified for nearly two hours.

The inmate, Neil Early, was serving a five-year sentence for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia after becoming addicted to heroin and stealing video games. His father said that the prison was rife with violence and drugs.

In 2010, three inmates escaped and two of them were later involved in the murder of an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico. The inmates were caught and prosecuted.