Arizona DOC Director Blames Job Stress for Hundreds of Employee Arrests
One Phoenix TV station learned first-hand the consequences of letting the target of a news story find out too much about it in advance.
Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director Charles L. Ryan – tipped off that a local TV station planned to air a report on the arrests of hundreds of ADC employees – preempted the story by issuing a public statement citing the number of arrests and blaming the “unique pressures” of prison work for staff misconduct.
On his “Director’s Desk” blog site, Ryan also condemned the crimes committed by ADC workers and offered a free employee assistance program.
“This concerns me greatly,” Ryan wrote on his blog, which is designed to communicate with ADC’s 9,278 staff members but tends to read more like a public relations platform. ADC employees, Ryan added, “should be keenly aware of the need to conduct both our personal and professional lives in a manner that is above reproach.”
Ryan’s blog post came as CBS affiliate TV station KPHO prepared to air a story revealing that 640 ADC employees had been arrested since fiscal year 2009, at the average rate of approximately 11 per month. Even more alarming, KPHO learned, many of those who faced criminal charges – including guards convicted of DUI and abusing their wives – had simply been suspended but not fired.
Ryan’s February 4, 2013 blog referenced ADC data that showed 57% of the offenses committed by prison employees since FY 2009 were DUI (232 arrests or citations) and domestic violence (134 incidents). Other common crimes included assault, shoplifting, check-writing scams, fraud and forgery, marijuana possession and driving on suspended or restricted licenses.
When it finally aired two months later in April 2013, the KPHO report quoted ADC documents that included a litany of offenses committed by guards and supervisors that resulted in minimal consequences. For example, the ADC suspended guard Miguel Herrera for 40 hours without pay for grabbing his girlfriend and punching her multiple times before trying to strangle her.
Forty hours without pay was also the punishment for guard Ruben Llamas, who struck his wife in the face and threw her onto a bed as their 1-year-old son watched, according to Yuma, Arizona police. ADC guard Jason Johnson was suspended for a week without pay after police in Winslow said he threw his 14-year-old stepson against a wall.
Authorities arrested ADC Major Kenneth Hewett for child abuse for allegedly spanking his 12-year-old son with a wooden board 30 times, leaving the boy badly bruised. Hewett was transferred to an executive staff position pending his retirement – with pension benefits.
Donna Hamm, director of Tempe, Arizona-based Middle Ground Prison Reform, told the ArizonaCapitol Times that blaming DUIs and domestic violence on job stress was an excuse rather than an explanation.
“Domestic violence is a serious problem and it is generally attributed to many factors, including mental problems, personality disorders, misplaced anger, immature coping skills [and] mal-socialization,” Hamm said. “Relating this problem and DUI arrests only to job-related stress is a way to attempt to minimize the behavior, and it evidences a failure to put the responsibility where it belongs – on the drinker or abuser.”
Further, ADC employees have committed far more serious offenses that also tend to refute the contention that “job stress” was the underlying cause. Indeed, several guards have been charged with crimes heinous enough to blur the distinction between the keepers and the kept, including recent incidents involving murder and sexual abuse.
ADC guard Anthony Rinaldi told police he “snapped” and his military training kicked in when he murdered his wife by shooting her three times at the couple’s suburban Phoenix home, while their 7-year-old and 6-month-old children were present. [See: PLN, May 2012, p.50]. Rinaldi pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in December 2013.
Three-year veteran ADC guard Alexander Santiago was arrested on September 18, 2014 on suspicion of killing his mother. Police said Santiago, a guard at ASPC-Eyman, walked into the local police station and told officers to take him into custody.
“He just kind of blurted out that, ‘might as well arrest me, I’ve been involved in a shooting,’” said Florence Police Chief Daniel Hughes.
Former ADC guard Robert Joseph Hamm, 34, was sentenced in September 2013 to 11 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl – while he was on probation for previously engaging in sex with the same girl. [See: PLN, June 2014, p.56].
Jose Maria-Macias, 23, a guard at ASPC-Lewis, was jailed on May 9, 2014 for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Police said Maria-Macias faces five counts of sexual conduct with a minor, one count of sexual abuse of a minor, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of luring a minor for sexual exploitation.
ADC guard Morgan Lichaczewski, 25, was arrested on November 28, 2014 for allegedly sexually assaulting two women following a birthday party at his home that authorities said involved heavy drinking. According to police, one woman accused Lichaczewski of trying to sexually assault her while she was asleep on a couch, and another woman said he attempted to remove her clothes when she was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. Lichaczewski’s financée was reportedly present at the party, which included a baby shower.
And ADC guard Anthony Marotta, 26, was sentenced on September 5, 2014 to three years’ probation on a charge of attempting to commit unlawful sexual conduct with a person in custody. As part of a plea bargain, two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a prisoner were dismissed. Police stated a female prisoner told them she had sex with Marotta on two separate occasions in a prison van. [See: PLN, Oct. 2014, p.56].
California-based prison consultant and former warden Daniel B. Vasquez said he was troubled by the nature of the crimes committed by ADC employees, and that more than job stress had to be involved.
“I ran the largest death row in the United States and I didn’t have any problems with my employees,” Vasquez told the Arizona Capitol Times. “[My employees] were never arrested in the 10 years I spent in San Quentin.”
Sources: Arizona Capitol Times, www.azcentral.com, www.kpho.com, Associated Press, www.huffingtonpost.com
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