Utah company takes responsibility for Ariz. prison escape

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CENTERVILLE -- For three weeks, the remaining member of a trio of escaped Arizona prison inmates dodged authorities, but the final fugitive's freedom ended Thursday night when he was captured with his accomplice.

The company who ran the prison the three men escaped from is based in Utah, and a new Arizona state report reveals serious issues with the way the prison operated -- which is putting pressure on the Utah prison management company.

MTC Senior Vice President Odie Washington says there were issues with their perimeter security and they had many false alarms in the past.
MTC Senior Vice President Odie Washington says there were issues with their perimeter security and they had many false alarms in the past.

The escaped convicts are suspected in the recent murders of a New Mexico couple, among other crimes. One man was caught after a shootout in Colorado; another was taken into custody after being seen in a church in a small Wyoming town.

The last of the three, John McClusky, was caught with his fiancée in an Arizona campground near the Sunrise Ski Resort Thursday night. But just the fact that all three men are back behind bars doesn't mean it's "business as usual" at the Kingman prison.

"Their performance and how they respond to this, if you will, rests with the jury. The jury's out," said Charles Ryan, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The medium-security prison is privately operated by Utah-based company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The state of Arizona released a detailed report of systemic problems at the prison, ranging from inadequate facilities and oversight to faulty alarms systems.

Investigators also discovered a lax prison culture -- one where the false alarms sounded so frequently the staff had become desensitized. During a 16-hour period on July 30, the day the men escaped, there were 89 false alarms.

"Our company is committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure that this doesn't happen again," said Odie Washington, MTC's senior corrections vice president.

Washington says his company will increase security around the perimeter of the prison and make changes to the perimeter fence. Some prison administrators -- including the warden and the security director -- have resigned, and a new management team has already been established. Despite his concessions, Washington stands by MTC history, saying it's had a low rate of serious incidents compared to other private and state run facilities. "I think, if you look at the history of escapes, they occur regularly in both public and private [facilities]," he said. MTC had no on-camera comment but gave KSL a written statement saying the company accepts responsibility for the incident, and an even greater responsibility for correcting the identified security issues.

Meanwhile, Department of corrections officials are also taking heat for not catching the problems at Kingman before the inmates escaped.

"I haven't been asked to resign. I serve at pleasure of the governor, and if it is determined by her that we are not responding accordingly, then I would certainly be called to have a conversation," Ryan said.


Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg and Paul Nelson.

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