The chief of security for the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility was fired June 1 and a sergeant resigned May 26 over allegations the sergeant had prisoners do pushups in lieu of written discipline.
Company spokesman Carl Stuart would not comment on why Capt. Ken Anderson was fired or why Sgt. Ben Rumbo resigned, saying the company does not comment on personnel matters. The Utah-based Management and Training Corporation operates the Marana prison and a prison in Kingman for the Arizona Department of Corrections and nine other private prisons in five states.
Anderson, who was the company's Correctional Officer of the Year in 1999, said he was shocked and outraged over his firing. In a four-page written appeal he filed with the company June 7, Anderson called the termination notice he received, "nothing more than a fabrication of half-truths and outright falsehoods, sprinkled with occasional facts."
He said he believed he handled the allegation of prisoners being made to do pushups properly based on the information he had at the time.
Since his forced leave and termination, Anderson said he has learned of allegations about other prison guards making prisoners do pushups, possibly since January, yet no other guards have been fired or suspended, or apparently even interviewed by state investigators.
Stuart said the company doesn't know how long or how often prisoners have been made to do disciplinary pushups at the prison. He said, as far as MTC was concerned, the investigation was completed.
"The corporation feels the people who were involved with this have been dealt with appropriately," he said.
However, in the written termination notice Anderson received from Steve Foley, the prison's acting warden, Foley wrote, "This practice, which has been going on at this facility for some time, is a violation of MTC and AZ Department of Corrections policy as well as against the law."
Stuart said he couldn't explain why Foley wrote "for some time" in the termination notice or what he meant by it, adding that he believed the amount of time it was taking place was insignificant since those the company believes were involved have quit or been fired and prisoners are no longer being made to do pushups.
Anderson, in his appeal letter, wrote, "Mr. Foley, during the termination meeting, asked me if I knew how long inmates had been subject to the unlawful punishment. I responded that since I was not even aware that anything untoward had been happening, I obviously could not know the length of time involved. Mr. Foley then informed me that Lt. (Ron) Wadley and Sgt. (Anthony) Almond have 'been dropping' inmates for pushups since January of this year! This being the case, why am I the only person singled out for punishment? Nothing can more clearly reflect malicious intent and vindictiveness toward me by MCCTF and MTC than this!"
Foley did not return a call for comment.
Cam Hunter, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said DOC did investigate the incident but the investigators' report was not made available to the Northwest EXPLORER by press time.
Hunter said she could not say why several of the guards accused of having made prisoners do pushups had not been interviewed by the investigators until she read the report and had spoken with the investigators.
She said making prisoners do pushups is against DOC policy and that private prisons are required in their contracts to follow all DOC rules and regulations. She said making inmates do pushups is not necessarily against the law. She said a state guard would likely be fired if found to have made prisoners do pushups.
The pushups issue first came to light the evening of May 24 when Anderson said he was called at home by Sgt. Almond who told him prisoners were making threats against Rumbo because Rumbo had threatened to make prisoners do pushups earlier in the day.
Anderson said the next day he "chewed Rumbo's ass" for threatening to make inmates do pushups, telling him that amounted to corporal punishment, which is prohibited by company policy and state DOC regulations.
He said he did not notify his superiors about Rumbo's threats because he believed that, under the new administration, he had more leeway to deal with personnel issues on his staff. Gil Lewis, who was warden at the prison for seven years until resigning April 30, had an infamous reputation for disciplining staff for failing to call him about even the littlest of things, Anderson said. He said he was told by Foley after Lewis left not to call him unless it was an emergency. He said if he had known prisoners had actually been made to do pushups, not just threatened with it, he would have immediately called his superiors and sought an investigation.
In his appeal letter, he wrote, "I have never condoned, nor would I tolerate, the abuse of inmates in any manner, but most especially as (it) relates to their Constitutional rights."
As Chief of Security, Anderson was third in the prison's chain of command and responsible for the prison's 42 corrections officers, including sergeants and lieutenants.
He said he was told May 26 by his supervisors - John Shanks, the prison's interim warden, and Foley - that prisoners had been made to do pushups, not merely threatened with having to do them. He said he was suspended without pay that afternoon.
Rumbo said he was also suspended that day without pay but instead chose to resign.
In a telephone interview May 27, Rumbo admitted to "asking" about 20 inmates if they wanted to do pushups instead of being given written disciplinary reports for having been moving around during a midday inmate count. Disciplinary reports are criminal citations that can lead to additional punishment for an inmate, such as solitary confinement, and affect their prison record which is used in parole or early release hearings. Disrupting counts, which are conducted four times a day to ensure all inmates are accounted for, is considered a B level violation. There are three levels of disciplinary reports, A, B and C, with A being the highest; usually serious crimes like escape or assault.
"Everybody knows at the whole facility that there is no possible way you can write 19 to 25 tickets in one day. The tickets are real lengthy and you have to explain everything in detail. Plus, you have to write another report on top of it," Rumbo said.
"So I'm thinking to myself, 'what can I do to punish them, or they think they're being punished, and I'll still be doing my job.' I said … I saw a guard drop an inmate,' so I said, 'I'll ask the inmates to do pushups,' quote, ask. I asked them. Some of them volunteered - some are a handful," he said.
Rumbo, who has been a sergeant for two years and worked as a guard at the facility since 1996, said he thought having prisoners do pushups was allowed because the day before he had seen Almond make a prisoner do pushups. He said Almond told him he did it all the time and that Lt. Wadley had even made a prisoner do pushups in the prison's dining hall.
He said he still doesn't think asking prisoners to volunteer to do pushups is a violation of policy.
Wadley, in a telephone interview June 3, denied he ever made an inmate do pushups and said he was unaware of Almond having ever done so either. Almond and Wadley usually supervise the same shift.
He said he knew about what had happened to Anderson and Rumbo, but said he wasn't facing any discipline. He also said he was never interviewed by MCCTF officials or by state DOC investigators.
Anderson said state investigators have not spoken to him about the matter, and that Rumbo told him he was never interviewed by state officials either.
Almond was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Rumbo, who was going to resign from MCCTF in a few months to begin training at the Arizona Department of Public Safety Academy to become a state police officer, said he was angry at the company for not pursuing the threats Almond reported inmates had made against him.
"Sgt. Almond knows I got death threats on my head from the inmates. If they know where these death threats are coming from, why don't they charge these people with a street crime for threatening and intimidation of a law enforcement officer?" Rumbo said.
"Nothing is happening to these inmates for making death threats but people are getting terminated and put on … administrative leave without pay because of a pushup?" he said.
Hunter said she would not know if the death threats were investigated until she received the investigators' report. She said June 4 the report would be made available June 7. However, Hunter sent an e-mail late on June 7 that said the report would not be ready until after the Northwest EXPLORER's press deadline. The Northwest EXPLORER had also submitted a request to Hunter to interview an inmate who had reportedly told Almond of the threats made against Rumbo. The interview could not be arranged by press time because the prisoner was admitted to the hospital, Hunter wrote.
Anderson said he wanted to know why other supervisors at the prison were not facing termination if he was fired because he should have known, as the supervisor of all the guards, if guards were making prisoners do pushups.
He said being responsible for everything that happens under his command is called vicarious liability. He said in his appeal letter, if that is part of the basis for his termination, then both of his superiors, plus many of his lieutenants must face the same fate for not knowing about prisoners doing disciplinary pushups for possibly as long as five months.
"Why was I terminated while … Lt. Wadley and Sgt. Almond are still employed at the facility? This is injustice in the extreme, highlighting the malicious, unethical and morally bankrupt treatment of me by MCCTF and MTC alike. Why was I made the scapegoat in this affair?" Anderson wrote in his appeal.
Anderson said it was unclear what will happen with his appeal since the company's grievance policy only refers to existing employees.
He said he will fight for his job back as best he can but said he likely does not have enough money to afford a lawsuit.
Anderson was the longest serving guard at the prison, he was hired in 1994 when the prison opened.