As the director of Arizona prison system, Charles L. Ryan has an uphill challenge on his hands as his prisons are exploding into blazing rings of fire due to hatred racial motives within, while under fire for the severe assaults and attacks on his own correctional officers and employees statewide. He is definitely under fire and as expected, will soon receive his comeuppance through a chain of events that will seal his fate.
There are multiple reasons for his personal demise and professional punishment to occur. He has been a pivotal political figure in Arizona prison strategies since 2009 and has not taken one speck or share for the poor accountability and responsibility how his administration has failed to protect Arizona citizens and its employees. His inactions to diminish violence inside the prisons towards staff and inmate on inmate attacks will draw opportunistic attacks from those candidates that disagree with his management style and will use the pulpit to express such a ruins.
Once a tough talking director that came on board with promises to reduce prison violence on staff and control inmate misconduct, he has pretty much thrown in the towel in succeeding in this mission and has been focusing heavily on making sure that expanding beds becomes a thriving business for the private prison contributors. His statistics indicating failures has grabbed the news headlines and summoned him to the Capitol more than once. It is clear the governor does not want the prison system to become one of her biggest political controversies and if it doesn’t come under control soon, it will be her worst nightmare since taking office.
Tampering with legislative approved rosters / charts and allocated full time employee staffing patterns he chopped these rosters down to the bare bones. Claiming and blaming the prior administration for such cuts worked for a while but then, he started his own butchery and now these facilities are running with skeleton crews on graveyard and severely shorted days and swing shifts with the inmates outnumbering them at two hundred and fifty to one on any given day of the week. This meddling was not just focused on staffing as he directed staff to alter or modify risk assessment policies and inmate classification systems to meet the needs of private prison beds and maximum custody beds in solitary confinement where he is currently planning to expand this custody level to another 500 beds in Lewis Complex.
I remember how he deliberately and methodically demolished the existing inmate employment system and what we called the capacity program under the previous director. Reducing educational programs, mental health treatment, and eliminating inmate jobs led to large unemployment conditions that allowed gang activities to enlarge and cultivate. Idleness, lack of staff and overcrowding are the three main ingredients for a riot and this man ignored each and every one of these elements.
Selected and nominated by private prison supporters to embrace and nurture the private prison growth in Arizona, he has now become the talk of the town amongst his own supporters and likely has become a liability in their eyes. In fact, some are pleased to see this man get a bit of southwestern comeuppance as his records begins to reflect failures rather than successes. Unfortunately there is no suitable replacement for this man that will keep the private beds growing as Charles L. Ryan has.
Some will not forgive him for his mistakes and others will call for his resignation in public even after the next catastrophe coming soon. Although I expect him to apologize profusely and announce that everything is under control, he has weathered a tough road beginning with the baking of a prostitute in the blistering Southwest desert when she was left in the scorching sun and 120 degree red-hot weather without any shade or supervision by staff and died there from a heat stroke.
Strangely even with the media pounding him on this horrific death and revision of policies concerning the use of outdoor recreation holding enclosures, there were several instances within the next few months that resulted in staff being disciplined for not following new policies regarding the length of stay inside such closures and the requirements for such placements.
Then the weakness and vulnerability of the Kingman prison illustrated poor judgment by the prison officials to send convicted murderers and high risk offenders to a facility that was designed to hold DUI offenders and not hard core criminals that have links to violence, drug dealing, gangs and murder. This Management Training Corporation (MTC), a for profit organization has historically dealt with low level security units e.g. DUI offenders and handle contract services for federal detainees for violating immigration laws and awaiting deportation out of this country. Thus it was reasonable that MTC was hardly prepared or skilled to deal with such a volatile long term population.
It was a nightmare that Kingman residents briefly endured because the escapees (all three of them plus their female accomplice) hijacked a semi-truck and left Arizona as soon as they could heading East to New Mexico where there was a double homicide committed to carjack their truck and camper. Even after the capture of all three escapees, it became evident that Kingman was an easy escape trick.
Gang violence has been escalating and nothing has seemed to stop their blatant disregard for law and order. Although expected, there has been weak counteracting measures taken to stop their predatory behaviors. Now he is facing numerous staff attacks and a racial war that is so volatile a single spark will ignite the entire state within hours. The riots have been minimized by censoring the news but mostly by the inmates themselves as staff don’t have the numbers to quell any disturbance until all resources are gathered statewide to fight the containment and melee. So far, Arizona has been spared a race war but the flames are growing and the hate is mounting.
Since taking office he has not taken one step towards rehabilitation or increased programing to avoid idleness inside his prisons and make his front gates to the prisons accessible for drugs, cell phones and other contraband. In the course of neglecting gang activities he has empowered these thugs to run the yards with the acknowledgment of administrative officials impotent to stop their recruitment and fierceness. Since his appointment as the director, he has eliminated staffing at points of ingress and egress making the introduction of contraband easy for anyone allowed to enter the premises – staff, visitors or contract employees.
He has increased the role of community corrections but has failed to encourage the criminal justice system to use alternative programing for the severely mentally ill and those first time offenders found guilty of substance abuse and other controlled substances. His silence on offering alternatives to incarceration has cost the state’s prison budget to exceed one billion dollars and more expenditures are expected in the next legislative request for prison funds.
Charles L. Ryan has not been held accountable for these catastrophes. What he has done is shuffle his own personal circle of influence and friends around the state to put them at the helm sort of speak and made them wardens to suit his own personal needs and control. Closing these warden’s offices to the selected few ensured him a tight control on communications and disciplinary on staff and keep the prison run the way he has set up his personal agenda since taking office.
His modus operandi has been simple – punish those that fail him -promote those that show loyalty and get rid of those that oppose him. Needless to say, time will tell if this strategy is enough for him to survive or if this becomes part of his comeuppance. He has demonstrated a bully pattern. Through his ultimate wisdom he fought for new hires to come on board as at-will employees which gave him the ability to hire and fire at will if these individuals did not possess the qualities he sought to operate his prisons. He changed the disciplinary due process and created opportunities for staff to be disciplined and sanctions based on confidential information, innuendos and rumors.
Reflecting and citing his inability to control violence, gangs, drugs, homicides, suicides, accidental deaths and serious attacks [including a sexual assault or rape] inside a medium prison] the prison system is going to hell. These incidents are proof that once again the most dangerous place on the earth today is the Arizona prison system. Will these scandals affect his job? Will he be removed by the Governor before her term is over? How damaging is this to Governor Brewer and what will she do?
I strongly suspect she will leave him alone until her term is expired at the end of this year. I strongly suspect that litigation will be overwhelming in the ACLU sponsored Parsons versus Ryan lawsuit and that the state will lose or settle that case to avoid further damage or costs. Eventually the truth will come out and illustrate how bad this director performed his job as a state appointed public official.
This case is centered on the alleged lack of medical and mental health care for Arizona prisoners. It alleges abuse and neglect and deliberate delays in care that resulted in amputations, emergency surgeries, loss of essential physical and mental capabilities to cope and function within a prison setting and contributed heavily to the number of suicides and “natural deaths” occurring under the reign of this director.
His criticism will be overwhelming but nothing good can be said about those who kept their silence in check as they endorsed his dwindling performance. I suspect the federal government will launch an inquiry and see what was done to mirror violations of civil right laws within the prisons and healthcare. I strongly expect his critics and opponents in ideology and correctional practices to really dig at him as they are his real nemeses.
Regardless of the end, he will get his comeuppance as when it is all said and done – he owns this mess and fixing it will cost the state much more than what they have invested to tear it down like they have in the past five years. The reversal of the damage done will bring to the attention of the gross neglect that occurred under his watch and how many people, citizens, employees and inmates suffered needlessly because of inattention to his duties and sworn oath to keep Arizona safe and protect those that serve him and the state in the capacity of correctional officers or correctional employees who have always given their 110 percent to keep things going when the support from above was oblivious and non-coming when they needed it the most.