Governor appoints new Arizona Department of Corrections director

David Shinn replaces Charles Ryan

Governor appoints new Arizona Department of Corrections director
David Shinn (Source: Federal Bureau of Prisons)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Gov. Doug Ducey announced the appointment of David Shinn as the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Shinn, who currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Program Review Division of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., brings more than 30 years of law enforcement executive leadership experience and has served with the Federal Bureau of Prisons since 1991.

In a news release on Monday, Oct. 7, the governor said, “Our goal was to identify a leader with extensive experience in the corrections field, a record of solving problems and getting results, and a passion for public service. David Shinn is that leader.”

“David brings a depth of experience up and down the corrections system — from serving as a corrections officer to overseeing thousands of staff and inmates as a complex warden and ensuring high-quality operational procedures for one of the largest prison systems in the world. What’s more, his proven commitment to improved outcomes for officers and inmates enables him to continue the innovative partnerships that have helped Arizona reduce recidivism at record rates. My sincere thanks goes out to David for his willingness to serve in this crucial position at Arizona’s largest state agency," Ducey said.

Shinn’s appointment comes just weeks after the retirement of embattled former director, Charles Ryan.

Ryan stepped down in September amid controversy that plagued the decade he spent as director of the state’s prison system.

The Arizona Department of Corrections settled a statewide class action lawsuit in 2012 brought forth by prisoners fighting for better healthcare behind bars. In the settlement, the ADC and its leadership agreed to meet certain inmate healthcare standards. In 2018, however, a judge found the ADC and its leadership in contempt of court for failure to meet those standards and issued a $1.4 million fine. The ADC is appealing that ruling. The plaintiffs in this case are urging the court to issue more fines, alleging the ADC continues to fall short of the standards.

As the ADC continues to fight these fines, the department is also dealing with the backlash that came after the release of a video from inside the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye that showed prisoners who were able to open their locked cell doors and attack corrections officers and other prisoners.

Ducey called for two retired Supreme Court justices to investigate. Their investigation found the security issues were not limited to the Lewis complex.

Ryan announced his plans to retire shortly after the results of the investigation were released.

The American Friends Service Committee-Arizona, a Quaker organization, hosted a town hall over the summer where former inmates and loved ones of those incarcerated told lawmakers and community leaders that Ryan needed to be removed.

They organization sent letters and videos to the governor, urging him to replace Ryan with someone that “will lead the department with integrity” and take it “in a bold new direction.”

“This moment provides a crucial opportunity to correct the serious, systemic issues in ADC and heal the wounds in our community,” the group said in a statement.

In Monday’s news release, Shinn said, “I am truly honored to be appointed director of the Arizona Department of Corrections and for the opportunity to serve along with the more than 8,500 dedicated men and women of the Department."

“Above all else, I am fully committed to prioritizing the safety and security of our officers, staff and inmates — while excited to build upon Arizona’s already substantial efforts to prepare those serving their time for success after release. Having devoted more than three decades of my life to serving the public, I am humbled by the confidence placed in me and grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve," Shinn said.

Most recently, Shinn served as the assistant director of the Program Review Division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In this position, he was responsible for leading the internal and external audit divisions where he provided oversight of more than 575 audits annually and developed training objectives for supervisors, managers and executives.

Shinn also participated in the selection of chief executive officers for 122 institutions across the country and served as director of the bureau’s Equal Employment Opportunity program, where he engaged with staff to help resolve concerns brought forward by any of the bureau’s more than 38,000 employees.

Shinn has also served as chief executive officer for the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, Calif., as well as the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles and the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu before that. In these roles, Shinn provided fiscal and operational leadership, implemented innovative programs and trained staff in enhanced security, mental health management procedures and more.

Before joining the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Shinn served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991.

His first day as director will be Oct. 21.

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