Correctional Officers Call For End To Code Of Silence In Arizona Prisons

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - 9:52pm
Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - 9:58pm

Officer Carlos Garcia
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Retired Arizona Department of Corrections Officer Carlos Garcia speaks at the Arizona Capitol.

Carlos Garcia, a retired correctional officer, said there are codes in law enforcement that have been around forever.

“See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil,” Garcia told a group of reporters gathered at the state Capital on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re gonna change that. It has to be: ‘I saw it. I heard it. And I’m tellin'.”

Speaking as a representative of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, Garcia said their 1,500 members share the safety concerns of inmates and their families as recent reports exposed serious security concerns in state prisons.

Middle Ground Prison Reform Director Donna Hamm said it was unprecedented for her to share a microphone with correctional officers.

“We stand in support of their right to be safe in their jobs as well as the inmates deserve to be safe in their cells,” she said.

Hamm joined with representatives from the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association to call for a series of reforms after reports of security problems in the Lewis Prison.

While governor Ducey formed a team to review the specific problems at Lewis Prison, Hamm thinks there should be a panel of outside experts tasked with auditing security devices at all ADC facilities.

Hamm said she is hearing from inmate families who tell her malfunctioning doors and locks are not specific to Lewis. “It is much more widespread,” Hamm said, “We’ve received reports about Perryville, about Tucson.”

Hamm described a recent padlocking of inmate cells as “insane” and “a blueprint for disaster.”

Citing the long history of vacant positions at the Arizona Department of Corrections, Hamm suggested Legislative leaders consider a tuition forgiveness program for students in public universities and community colleges who agree to work at ADC

Both groups called for greater accountability from the Department of Corrections and asked state legislators to create a committee to specifically oversee the billion dollar state agency.

Garcia said Correctional Officers are asking for more accountability from the Department of Corrections administration and seeking a special channel to the Director to express security concerns without fear of retribution.

"The hell with a code of silence,” Garcia said. “People are dying.”

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