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Arizona DOC Guard Reinstated Despite Error Resulting in Prisoner’s Murder

Arizona’s state personnel board has overturned disciplinary actions against two prison employees who were implicated in errors leading to the murder of a prisoner at ASPC Florence. The board determined that although mistakes occurred, they should not have resulted in the termination of one guard or the other staff member’s suspension. Evidently the loss of a prisoner’s life does not warrant the loss of a guard’s job.

Captain James Long and guard Dorinda Cordova were among a dozen prison officials, including the warden, who were fired, forced to resign or otherwise sanctioned in January 2007 following a fatal incident in which a minimum security prisoner was placed in a cell with a known violent killer. William Harris was erroneously celled with Michael Gaston, who stabbed Harris to death within an hour.

Prior to the September 7, 2006 murder, Cordova had mistakenly classified Harris as “maximum custody” rather than “minimum custody,” which resulted in his being placed in a cell with Gaston during a bed shortage.

Cordova was fired and subsequently appealed to the personnel board, which reduced her punishment to an 80-hour suspension. She is suing for back pay, though state officials noted that she was earning wages at a private prison while her board appeal was pending.

Long was captain of the group of prison staff members that placed Harris in the cell with Gaston, even though Harris stated he felt his life was in danger. The personnel board investigator was “befuddled” as to why Long received an 80-hour suspension, when reports indicated that Long wasn’t at the facility that day. His suspension was overturned. Long’s and Cordova’s board actions were announced in February 2008 by their union, the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS).

Source: East Valley Tribune

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