Arizona is a difficult place for politicians to hide from the media or other sources willing to criticize public servants and services. Flying under the radar appears to be a tricky quest for many but not for prison director Charles L. Ryan. He has managed to remain silent and unnoticed for the past six months even though his agency is under constant barrage of criticism and lawsuits for poor custodial care, wrongful deaths and security concerns related to public and staff safety.
He is now a more prominent member of the Brewer administration. He has served her every whim and every demand has been fulfilled under his term. Apart from feeling the heat by the media he has remained cool and calm under duress as if whatever is said doesn’t matter to him as he has been assured by those that put him in power, his job is secure as long as he serves loyally and focuses on the expansion of private prison beds under his command. He has certainly earned his dark wings from them.
Ryan has faced many drawbacks and has caught more flak than any other director from the past and rightfully so. His resilience is mastered only by the strings attached to the governor’s office that clearly fronts every decision he makes. There are no counterparts, no competition for his job and he is well situated to do more of the governor’s bidding.
He is neither the point man nor the major decision maker for the agency and takes this role in stride. All signs point to the Chief of Staff for the governor as being the shot caller but that may be offset by the legislative influences of the private prison lobbyist that put money in their pockets. His low key approach and staying away from television cameras is paying off.
He has managed to go unnoticed in public and has not drawn any attention to his agency’s numerous failures and investigations into medical delay litigation, personnel criminal activity and other well controlled failures and flaws hidden under the disguise of being “under investigation” drawing a no comment status.
The perks for this lower profile has become clear – he is a direct benefactor of the private prison lobby group that will receive a large and significant endowment of funds from state government for beds filled and unfilled. The advantages were negotiated in their contracts and appear to be self-assuring of making a significant amount of profit for 2014 and 2015 and maybe as far ahead as 2016.
As chief executive of an ailing agency he has decimated its wellness into a state of chaos. He has consistently refrained from granting interviews citing litigation as the reasons. Although he used to be like a magnet of bad news since the Kingman escape, he has succeeded to stay low and still serve point man for the cause of privatizing prisons.
His demeanor shows not compassion or kindness to anyone. His cold and ruthless manner of operating the agency is reflected by a high number of staff assaults and excessive deaths within the prisons. He continues to resist building a more open and transparent relationship with state media outlets as well as regulators that appear to be interested in his management style of Arizona prisons.
In the meantime, through his personal relationships with former mentors and bosses now with the private prison groups, he is adopting a more conservative tone with them and has not apologized for anything they have done since he took over as director.