By Cynthia Hoang-Duong
PHOENIX, AZ – In fulfilling her promise of a bold agenda for her first 100 days in office — her First 100 Days Initiative — Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order last week that established the Independent Prison Oversight Commission for transparency and accountability of the state’s correction facilities.
“We cannot deny there is an urgent need to provide transparency and accountability in Arizona’s corrections system,” the governor said.
According to the executive order, the Commission will address issues such as misconduct, workplace safety, inhumane treatment, fiscal management, sanitation and healthcare within the correctional systems.
“Incarcerated Arizonans should be treated humanely and decently and corrections administrators and officers should feel safe in their workplace,” said Gov. Hobbs.
Hobbs said as an independent and external commission, it will publicly disclose information about the state’s correction system, aiding lawmakers and policymakers in assessing the programs in these facilities.
Regarding the executive order, Ryan Thornell, appointed by Hobbs as the new Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said, “As I have begun to familiarize myself with the operations of the department, it has become clear that this commission will help drive the growth that the system is in need of.”
The executive order outlines how the members of the Independent Prison Oversight Commission will be selected and appointed. The Commission will comprise persons such as two senators, two House representatives, a representative of an inmate advocacy organization, an Arizona-licensed physician, a health professional, etc.
In effect, according to the order, the Commission will gain reasonable access to the prison facilities to examine records, communicate with staff and inmates, and monitor their operations.
The executive order explicitly states the Commission will comply with the procedures instructed by the Director of Corrections and ADCRR policy. Following the inspections, the Commission will issue annual reports of their findings, updates, and recommendations from their inspection.
“The intentionality of the Hobbs administration, and my leadership, will use tools like this to create the best corrections system for the State of Arizona,” said Thornell.
Gov. Hobbs added, “Director Thornell cares about transparency, and it is one of the many reasons he is the right person to tackle these tough problems. But he will need the support of the community as well, and this executive order gives him the tools he needs to be successful.”
The Independent Prison Oversight Commission will provide a preliminary report of its findings and recommendations by Nov. 15.