Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan announces retirement

Updated: Aug. 9, 2019 at 7:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Just weeks after dozens called for the resignation of Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan during a heated town hall in Phoenix, he announced he is retirement.

Ryan emailed a retirement announcement to his staff Friday. His last day will be Friday, Sept. 13.

According to the ADC website, Ryan has 41 years of experience in the field of corrections.

The ADC has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months after leaked videos raised concerns about prison safety.

A judge last year found Ryan in contempt for failing to follow through on promises to improve inmate health care, and the state was fined more than $1.4 million. The judge has threatened further fines. The Arizona Department of Corrections is appealing that ruling.

Earlier this year, AZ Family reported the department was rocked by revelations inmates at the Lewis prison complex near Phoenix were able to open locked cell doors and attack corrections officers and other prisoners.

And Ryan has faced growing pressure from civil rights advocates who started a "Fire Chuck Ryan" campaign over alleged inhumane conditions in prisons.

The KOLD News 13 Investigative Team traveled to Phoenix July 31 to attend an Arizona State Prison Town Hall hosted by the Tucson-based group, American Friends Service Committee-Arizona and Living United for Change in Arizona.

A panel of state lawmakers and community leaders, including a representative from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office and a representative from the Arizona Department of Corrections, listened to the public’s concerns for hours.

The roughly 200 attendees were former inmates, family members of inmates and advocates.

Many voiced that they wanted Ryan gone.

One woman who made a public comment said her friend died in an Arizona prison.

“For 10 years, our state prisons have been mismanaged and families across the state have struggled" she said. “It is urgent Gov. Ducey fires Chuck Ryan immediately and start searching for a new director.”

The room applauded.

At one point, an attendee asked the panel who would support having Ryan removed.

A couple of hands went up, including Democratic Representative Diego Rodriguez.

“I do believe that the leadership Director Ryan has provided has been completely inadequate," Rodriguez said. “I don’t believe he has the credibility to hold that position anymore.”

On Friday, the American Friends Service Committee released a statement asking the governor to, “convene an advisory committee made up of key stakeholders and experts, including those directly impacted by incarceration, to select a new Director.”

The group said they are grateful for the hundreds of directly impacted voices who came forward over the past several months to call for accountability and systemic change.

Ryan made no reference to the controversy in Friday’s email.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.