The headlines about the Kingman riots stumbled to bring any sense of urgency to the front page. After the media cooled down their coverage of the event, the captions disappeared, the interest unwearyingly dissipated and the agency is back to a business as usual approach managing our prisons. Even without the full disclosure of the Doug Ducey imposed “full probe investigation” into the Kingman riots, the narratives are gone.
This is not the first time nor will it be the last time, these kind of episodes appear and disappear within a short week or two. There is no fear out there, thus there is no wear in such stories. Damage control is always essential in minimizing collateral political damage and that is usually done within a day or two of the event and done well. Solutions to our prison disturbances have remained unsolved.
Solutions are there but the action it takes to make it happen are not. Will there be a string of riots this summer or it the crisis over? The answer lies in the prison population and how they react to minor superficial changes imposed to take the heat off the administration who failed to control the situation that began these riots by sputtering with lack of oversight and non-existent leadership.
Governor Ducey toured the Central Office area on Monday August 3, 2015, and was re-assured by the director that everything is under control. He reviewed compiled data shaped to sooth the soul and reassure him the damage done is nominal and the harm or fears were exaggerated. I for one can relate to such compiled data as I have been part of such hurried policy fixings in the past.
Fixing policies is like changing lanes without signaling. It’s based on lessons learned approaches that reveal not much other than the superficial on the surface causes and leave out the root causes of such disturbances. In practical terms, it’s a band aid instead of surgery for the problem and treats the symptoms, not the disease. There are no cultural advantages to such strategies, staff will not conform to changes without resistance or lack of interest in doing so. Tacit directions will continue to exist.
Is the agency more responsive and efficient today than it was pre-Kingman riots? Not hardly, it’s still the same mold, ideology and methodology to run the mission with preferred housing for private prisons such as Kingman. Patience is a virtue and Governor Ducey appears to have patience at this time. If this were to happen again, I venture to say his patience would be tested extremely hard and not easy for the agency to smooth over again.
By default, running prisons is brutal; it has no splendor or finesse of any kind that we know of. There are plenty of examples that show rapes, sexual assaults, physical assaults, homicides and suicides makes up most of the critical events on a daily or weekly basis. If one was to conduct interviews of such events, one could find the root causes but that’s not being done. There are better ways of policing our policies and protect our employees form harm but yet again, it is not being done. It is neither cost effective nor convenient to do so. This creates chaos, confusion, low morale and less understanding of the job and its expectations.
The theory is that employees, if given a slight margin or praise, will be more understanding and less fearful and fearful if they feel the policies are there to protect them. The same goes for inmates as they fear assaults from other inmates as well as alleged attacks by correctional staff. Either way, all sides are claiming victimization in today’s world and standards.
Business is good for Governor Ducey and his fellow private prison cronies. A great deal of money is yet to be made with future lucrative offers to expand the bed space. What appears to be an evenhanded situation on the surface is really an underhanded deal that will blow up in someone’s face when it blows. Although the state is littered with wrongful death lawsuits, they expect to either win them in court or allow risk management to pay them off in secret settlements. Either way, the taxpayers foot the bill; nothing comes back to any individual or entity that may be the gateway to this mess created due to political will to make doing time hard time. This might work in Arizona, as society’s culture is permissive and generous with civil rights and human right issues.
The bottom line is race-based policies might not work with violent crimes and criminals. The thought that we can treat every inmate the same is ridiculous and unreal. There needs to be core value established for the issuance of basic human rights and preservation of life through due diligence in the course to protecting civil rights. It is fair to wonder if Arizona can meet the challenge.
Prison management is a multi-functional concept and is a diverse culture. Inside prisons, culture rules everything including race and numbers. Diversity is the key to solutions. Equality is also a key element of social problems inside prisons. Relationships are strained and tempers are short. Living conditions are minimal and accommodations are few. Drug use and abuse is more rampant today than yesterday. More training, better retention of experience and interpersonal communication skills need to be achieved.
Changing policies does not make good practice when our solution is deeper than that. Consistency by the agency is warranted. One prison should be run alike the others and management and staffing should be allocated to keep it safe. We can dream can’t we, I mean, it might get worse before it gets better but it will get better, one way or another. History always has a way of repeating itself.