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12:15 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

State prisons agency releases report on escape

PHOENIX - Security flaws at a privately operated state prison where three dangerous convicts escaped included having the perimeter guard drive in a standard routine, providing predictability that helped the escapees plan their breakout, according to a state report released Monday.

The report on the internal investigation by the Department of Corrections cited long-standing alarm problems and poor operational practices that included having the Kingman prison's perimeter guard always drive in the same direction at the same speed.

That allowed the inmates "to better plan their escape," which the inmates accomplished by cutting a hole in a fence after an accomplice tossed wire cutters into the prison, the report said.

The report said the department's own monitoring of the facility operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corp. was lax and contributed to conditions that allowed the July 30 escape.

The conclusions mirrored past statements by Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

The report blames two state officials for failing to perform their required duties. The state monitor assigned to the prison was fired, and an operations director has resigned.

The escapees have been recaptured - one each in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming. Two of them and the alleged accomplice, who also was apprehended in Arizona, were accused of murdering Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., in eastern New Mexico.

In a presentation Monday to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors in Kingman, Ryan said the department failed to provide required notifications to state lawmakers, county supervisors and the public in 2005 when convicts other than DUI offenders were assigned to the prison and in 2007 when murderers were first assigned to the facility.

Ryan, who became corrections director last year, said the change was made because there weren't enough DUI offenders to fill the prison, the Kingman Daily Miner reported.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan said the prison didn't notify local authorities soon enough after the escape or provide enough information.

Sheahan said that when the first 911 call came in from the prison, the caller didn't know the names or race of the missing inmates. "He only knew they were wearing orange," Sheahan said.

One of the convicts told investigators after his recapture that the convicts watched the movements of guards to determine the best time to break out.

The report also said one of the convicts borrowed a cell phone from another inmate to call the alleged accomplice the evening of the escape.