For more than three decades, Arizona corrections officers have complained of flawed locks at prisons throughout the state. For almost as long, state officials have failed to fund needed repairs and replacements, the Arizona Republic reports. In 1997, an inmate at Perryville Prison broke out of a cell with a faulty lock and stabbed a corrections officer to death. In 2000, an inmate escaped his poorly secured cell at the state prison in Phoenix and assaulted a nurse, leaving her bloody and bruised. Last year, six inmates at Lewis Prison abandoned cells with broken locks and entered another inmate’s quarters, beating him so badly he died of his injuries. Despite the need to repair broken locks appearing repeatedly in capital-improvement recommendations, state lawmakers, governors and corrections leaders haven’t prioritized what has become a $36 million problem over the years.
Arizona’s incarceration rate has climbed to the fourth-highest in the nation, putting additional pressure on old and dilapidated state buildings and overworked and underpaid corrections officers. The state’s management “has been a colossal failure and can’t be trusted to identify, let alone correct, security failures,” said the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association. The group added, “What’s most important now is not what happened in the past, but an outside assessment of security issues in all prisons — and then for the Legislature and governor to take the lead in appropriating the funds necessary to ensure the safety of the officers, inmates and the public.” Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said the state is “actively working to identify a long-term solution to this issue. We want to get this fixed, and we want to do it as soon as possible.”