Open Letter to Doug Ducey – Governor-
“Failing to Admit Failure”
When it comes to running a prison, it is incredibly unacceptable in culture and nature to admit failure. Admitting failure has severe consequences construed to be weaknesses in prison management styles and eventually a sign of weakness or incompetence.
How does this effect the relationship between prison administrators and the public? How does this impact the relationship the relationship with the executive chain of command? What are the inevitable and consequences?
This is the situation we are faced with again, today. The strength of our relationship and trust in our prison management systems is seriously in doubt and needs solid reassurances from the executive branch to show they are addressing these weaknesses appropriately. They should be asking the tough questions why mistakes were made and how are they being corrected.
The problem with the Kingman prison complex is deep. There are strong indicators there are continued inevitable failures within the management styles of both, the prison contractor, Management Training Corporation and the Arizona Department of Corrections. It is clear their relationship is not strong, not bonded and certainly not on the same levels of concerns.
In real-time, MTC failed to uphold the contract, again. The first time was a major escape from the facility in 2010, where three convicted murderers escaped and went on a crime spree killing two innocent people in New Mexico. The DOC promised to fix this and promised to conduct tighter control over this prison. It didn’t happen. There were other minor infractions in the past, but in order to focus on the more serious matters, we accept those as a matter of record.
Because of social media, the MTC organization and the DOC were unable to hide from failures. The media hounded for more information that came almost twelve hours later after the incident occurred. Even then, the press release was sketchy and written with vague and ambiguous language softening the impact of the riot that had occurred there on July 1st, and then another second major riot on July 2nd.
A second press release was more forth coming but still lacked sufficient details to admit something went wrong. It focused more on the transfer of 700 inmates to other prisons than on the problem itself. A solid ricochet of the incident seriousness by focusing on the transfer of the high number of inmates rather than the extensive, destructive and man-made caused damage indicating staffing and supervisory issues were problematic.
Neither MTC nor the DOC had the guts to reveal the truth of the event. Both went into a defensive damage control mode and even Governor Doug Ducey engaged in this deceptive scheme to delay information and keep the media and the public at an arm’s length distance to buy them time to articulate the failures. If not for local media, not associated with any major politically correct network, much of the details would have remained hidden.
The DOC, the governor and MTC were much better off admitting that something went wrong. They should have addressed it in an authentic, open and transparent manner and get it out there as soon as possible.
Instead they took the cowardly route and delayed information making the public anxious and stressed because this impacted families of staff or employees, the community and the state as a whole wanting to know the truth.
Reconfiguring the truth seems to be a habit by the DOC. They work hard to hide their failures and their horrible failure points. They seem to be repetitive in nature and results indicating a self-destructive mode causing failures by neglect more than systemic in cause. Not only do these deceptive press releases draw criticism, they draw suspicion and create serious trust issues for the government that owns these problems. In fact, they increased their liabilities exponentially by not sharing what could be shared without jeopardizing the clean-up operations.
How an agency fails is partly due to leadership or lack of leadership. It appears that the current leadership of MTC and the DOC are more concerned with hiding problems than solving problems. They spend an enormous amount of energy to cover up or deceive the public, and suspect the governor as well, to hide their failures.
Some observations noted in this recent failure and those of the past reveals a culture that accepts failures as successes. This means that the MTC/DOC domain uses failures to mark their successes in garnering more funding for the operational expenditures claiming the funds are needed to solve the problems. Regardless, these self-inflicted problems are instrumental to their funding requests to the legislature.
They fail successfully as they pick up more funding at the expense of community public safety and heavy handed physical assaults on their employees with significant property damage associated with these riots and other failures documented frequently. In fact, they have built an elastically cultural attitude, a more lackadaisical types behaviors in the face of inevitable failures.
They have created a culture of sharing failures for their successes in gaining support to fix the problem. Although the legislature has been railroaded, deceived and mislead deliberately by creative writers and documented reports with skewed outcomes, they are willing participants to give them more funding.
Instead of sitting down and tackling the problem, this management team sits down and conducts unrealistic assessments to manipulate more funding for future inevitable failures which will occur because the problems are not really solved. Assessments to fix the problems are rare. The best the DOC does is rewrite or revise the policies and procedures or amend a contract wording paragraph to instill more mandatory compliance tools. Tools which are rarely implemented and double checked upon to see if they are valid or working.
Inevitable failures have been a way of business for decades now, because it works. It works because of liability issues, if nothing is done to help fix the problem. The legislature, the governor and the public are extorted into a blackmail scheme by the DOC to extort monies to fix problems which are in reality never fixed.
The governor needs to appoint a new director, a new culture and a new direction for the DOC and its private prison contract responsibilities. Creating this culture has to come from the top. It needs to set the stage for eliminating or reducing failures and come forward with a solid corrective action plan. The first step in this process is to admit, something is wrong.
The second step is to reduce the risks associated with these failures. Executives need to decide their words needs to be backed with action.
Lip service should be eliminated and action should be demonstrated to show confidence in the changes made. Admitting risks is commendable and a reasonable act to take when fixing problems. Denial is counterproductive to fixing problems.
Taking risks and facing them is meaningful. It shows people you are sincere and dedicated to fix the problems. Blaming and pointing fingers is unacceptable for leadership who deflect their responsibilities to others when in fact, the ball is in their court.
Refusing to “stick out their necks” is cowardice and unprofessional thinking when failures occur. They should be pro-active and act courageously to work hard towards achieving success rather than failures.
The DOC and MTC had failed to set defined limits or acceptable performance or limits. Since their roles are ambiguously done, it opens the door to numerous and various different types of risks and makes transparency more difficult as admitting flaws or faults are politically career ending events. Keeping it more hidden is more palatable to these executives and reduces their risk-taking strategies keeping tight controls over the problems and hoping none are disclosed.
The DOC has no idea how to figure out to solve their failures. They cannot decide what risks are engaged and which failures are results of such neglect. Their “my sandbox” concept is deeply flawed as their rules of engagement of those current team members are those ideas and standards of a culture that accepts failures as successes.
The DOC needs to set new limits and expectations – they need to clearly define the rules, the standards and the expectations of their “sandbox” ideology and communicate to the governor and the public new rules of engagement within the sandbox perimeters.
By agreeing to these new covenants, new cultural expectations and more transparency, there will be more trust, greater confidence in problem solving methods and improved security in knowing the risks and prevent constant and inevitable failures which should not be acceptable but understood under these new limits.