NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Actions

ABC15 obtains contract to investigate problems at Lewis Prison

Posted: 8:00 PM, Jul 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-03 01:20:27-04
Lewis Prison unlocked doors

The outside special investigation conducted by two retired Arizona Supreme Court chief justices into the broken cell doors locks at the state’s Lewis prison will likely last through August, according to a contract obtained by the ABC15 Investigators.

FULL COVERAGE: Lewis prison broken cell locks, fires investigation

The investigation led by Ruth McGregor and Rebecca Berch will also cost $30,000.

ABC15 obtained the contract through a public records request. It officially defines the scope and focus of the investigation ordered by Governor Doug Ducey in late April.

The contract was signed by the two retired chief justices on June 18 and finalized by the state the following week.

The two-month delay to release the official contract had raised concerns by the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, which released a statement on in early June.

“The corrections officers working in those deplorable conditions expected a swift, sure, and competent response from ADC management and elected officials. The Governor’s Office promised an investigation to include an outside prison expert. It has now been over a month. No expert has been hired. The two justices have not been hired. The investigation has obviously not begun. AZCPOA deplores this lack of urgency when the lives of officers and inmates are clearly in jeopardy.”

ABC15 has learned that Berch and McGregor have interviewed multiple people in recent weeks, including Sgt. Gabriela Contreras, a whistleblower who leaked multiple videos exposing the problem.

On April 25, an ABC15 investigation exposed the leaked surveillance videos proving many cell doors inside the Lewis prison don’t properly secure, leading to severe assaults against inmates and officers. At least two inmate deaths are being blamed on the broken doors.

A specific type of slider door used in three units of Lewis prison either failed to lock properly or could be easily tampered with, allowing inmates to open and close their own cells.

A spokesman told ABC15 there are 1,857 of those specific doors in two Arizona prisons: Lewis and Yuma.

The doors were put into service between 1996 and 2002.

Contact ABC15 Investigators Dave Biscobing at dave@abc15.com and Melissa Blasius at Melissa@abc15.com .