Calls For Arizona Department Of Corrections Director Ryan’s Removal Grow
Danielle Jensen asked a crowd gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Friday evening to imagine a different world.
“A world where you would welcome a person returning from prison into your own community knowing that they are actually better than before they went in,” Jensen suggested.
Her brother, Jeffrey Jensen, was assaulted and killed by unsupervised inmates in the Lewis prison months before he was due for release in 2017.
Recent reports of a similar incident at the Lewis prison, as well as revelations of lapses in security, have brought intense scrutiny on the leadership at the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC).
Democratic House lawmakers and reform groups have called for Director Charles Ryan to step down. On Friday, the ACLU of Arizona organized a march from ADC headquarters to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, where they delivered a letter demanding Ryan be fired.
ACLU organizers, Jensen and other family members impacted by ADC, as well as formerly incarcerated people presented the letter to Ducey’s office.
The governor’s office has previously stated it will wait until the results of an independent review are complete before making any personnel decisions about ADC.
The ACLU letter calls for "a complete overhaul to the punitive culture within Arizona's criminal justice system."
Jensen and others gave brief remarks after speaking with the governor’s assistants. She echoed the need for a change in the current prison culture.
“It feeds chaos and violence and contributes to a complete disregard for the human beings who are incarcerated,” Jensen said. “The Department of Corrections has a long history of being indifferent to basic human rights, which, believe it or not, are not rights you lose when you become incarcerated.”
Reading the words of her brother, Jensen lamented a lack of resources given to promote successful reentry for formerly incarcerated people. “It takes a community to restore order in times of crisis and in order to bring light to this we must be honest with ourselves and one another and work together to fix this epidemic,” she said.
Vonda Bennett said the prison systems are “no joke.” Incarcerated for five and half years, she says she was treated as a number, and not a person. She says the attitude comes from the top, and called for Charles Ryan to step down. “It’s time for a new face for the Criminal Justice System,” Bennett said. “It’s time to have somebody in there who’s going to show some compassion.”
Eugene Glover is currently transitioning back into society after being released from state prison in 2017.
He says in 14 years of incarceration, he witnessed countless instances of ADC staff mistreating fellow inmates. He thinks Ryan’s poor leadership is to blame.
“It’s right there on the yard,” Glover said, “but there’s a blind eye of Department of Corrections officers, so you know, it has to start somewhere and he is their leader.”
“It’s a corrections institution,” Glover said. “They’re supposed to be — correcting.”