KINGMAN, AZ - An Arizona prison has vastly improved its security in the four years since a 2010 inmate escape that resulted in the murder of an Oklahoma couple, officials said Sunday.
MTC, the private company operating Arizona State Prison-Kingman, has invested $1 million in improvements, the Kingman Daily Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1xtJMQo).
The changes include having more barriers and training prison personnel and Mohave County Sheriff's deputies together on how to respond to prison breaks. The training applies to high-ranking corrections officers as well as the rank-and-file employees.
The extra barriers include alarms installed at every door and blocking gates on shared-use roads. Razor wire fencing now surrounds key locations in the prison complex. There is even a second 10-foot high perimeter fence around a medium-security unit.
"We've made a significant amount of improvements both physically and culturally," said Issa Arnita, an MTC spokesman. "And we will continue to improve."
Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said security at the medium-security facility today compared to 2010 is "night and day."
A team of Arizona Department of Corrections investigators looking into the prison break shortly after it happened issued a scathing report of the prison. The complaints included inadequate command of inmates, incompetent management and a flawed alarm system.
Employees were instructed to stop writing reports every time a false alarm went off, according to the report. Meanwhile, nobody looked into having it fixed. Investigators found that three inmates used that to their advantage to plan their escape.
Today, every alarm sounding is investigated.
"The big thing is, they call us now even if they're not sure someone is missing or not," Sheahan said. "They've learned it's better to be safe than sorry."
Prison officials said John McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick cut a hole in a perimeter fence and escaped through it on July 30, 2010. Investigators found that 80 minutes passed before the facility told law enforcement about the breakout. Within that time the three inmates and McCluskey's cousin and girlfriend, Casslyn Welch, made it to Interstate 40.
"They never would have made it to Interstate 40 if the prison didn't wait an hour and 20 minutes to call us," Sheahan said. "They had a pretty good amount of time to get away."
Renwick was quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado. But McCluskey, who was serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm, and the others went on to New Mexico.
Authorities said the three carjacked Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Oklahoma, on I-40 and killed them for their truck and travel trailer. The couple's bodies were found incinerated in their burned-out trailer in eastern New Mexico.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced 49-year-old John McCluskey to life in prison without parole for the slayings. Province and Welch were previously sentenced.