Oversight Committees Approves Arizona Department Of Corrections Spending On Capital Projects, Health Care

By Jimmy Jenkins, Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 11:01am
Updated: Friday, June 21, 2019 - 7:24am

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Arizona Department of Corrections building
Arizona Department of Corrections
Arizona Department of Corrections building in Phoenix.

An oversight committee approved spending requests from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

After a correctional officer leaked surveillance video showing how easily security could be compromised in state prisons, ADC officials have been shopping for new cell door locks.

On Tuesday, Director Charles Ryan asked the Joint Committee On Capital Review to approve more than $17 million for new locks as well as fire alarm and suppression systems and HVAC systems in Arizona prisons.

Ryan said years of under funding for capital improvement projects had led to the current infrastructure problems:

“There’s over 1,500 buildings in the state prison system," Ryan said, noting current funding levels were "not sufficient to take care of and maintain all of those structures.”

Lawmakers on the bipartisan committee approved Ryan’s requests but chastised him for not coming to them sooner and with greater urgency.

At a hearing of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee later in the day, ADC officials answered questions about a new contract for health care services in state prisons. 

In January, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced it had awarded a 2-year contract to correctional health care company Centurion with three one-year renewal options. 

Arizona will pay Centurion $205 million annually regardless of the prison population.

ADC’s Mike Kearns said the department and contractor are trying to maintain fixed costs. 

"The concern was, they needed to cover and have the appropriate level of staffing," Kearns said,  "and that is not going to change with a small movement of population.”

Kearns said Centurion had studied Arizona’s prison population and does not think it will change significantly in the next few years.

The contract will take effect July 1.

ADC officials told the committee an upgrade to the data tracking system used by the department has gone $7 million over budget and is still not operational.

The AIMS system is what the Department of Corrections uses to track things like population management, intake processing and sentence calculations.

A new version of the program was originally funded for $24 million in 2015 and was supposed to be completed in three years.

Department officials told the bipartisan joint legislative budget committee on Tuesday they needed $7 million more for the program.

The JLBC staff submitted a report speculating that the Department of Corrections had not properly scoped the project out during the design phase and purchased off-the shelf software that was difficult to retrofit. 

The committee gave the request an unfavorable review.

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