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Arizona prison ready to take more inmates

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Glaring security, personnel and equipment failures have been addressed and improved at a privately operated state prison in northwest Arizona, according to the Department of Corrections.

The agency said next week it will begin taking new prisoners at the facility in Golden Valley, which hasn’t done so since three dangerous inmates escaped last July.

Through transfers of high-risk inmates and routine releases, the 3,500-capacity prison’s population has since fallen to 2,013 inmates.

Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan said inspectors determined that MTC, a Utah-based company that operates the prison for the state, has made improvements to safely secure inmates and comply with contractual requirements.

“The prison is now adhering to ADC security policies and is ready to house more inmates,” Ryan said in a news release. “The security failures that led to the escape cannot be allowed to occur again.”

The three escapees and a female accomplice were recaptured. Two of the escapees and the accomplice are charged with the slayings of an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico three days after the prison break.

Family members of the victims have filed wrongful death and negligence lawsuits against the state of Arizona, MTC and Dominion Leasing, the company that built the prison.

Mohave County Supervisor Gary Watson said he lacks confidence in Ryan and MTC, and said there should be some third-party monitoring. Watson and Sheriff Tom Sheahan said they plan to tour the prison to see the security improvements.

County officials say that only after the escape did the general public learn that 117 inmates convicted of murder or attempted murder were housed there. When it was permitted, constructed and opened in 2004, the prison was billed as a minimum- to medium-security facility, strictly designed for male drunken driving convicts.

The Department of Corrections news release indicated that attempted and convicted murderers, and any inmates with escape or security risk histories will not be housed at the Golden Valley prison.

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