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Reform Group Calls For Termination Of Arizona Department Of Corrections Director Shinn

The criminal justice reform advocacy group  FAMM is calling for the termination of Arizona Department of Corrections Director David Shinn.

Representatives of FAMM have testified on criminal justice reform issues in Arizona in past legislative sessions, most recently advocating for sentencing reform.

On Tuesday, FAMM sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey calling for Shinn’s removal. The letter states that families of incarcerated people in Arizona have lost confidence in Shinn’s ability to keep their loved ones safe, citing  recent COVID outbreaksa riot and  ongoing issues with health care and food and  water quality in the prisons.

FAMM Vice President Molly Gill says while he inherited a lot of challenges when he took over in 2019, Shinn has failed to be transparent about Department operations with stakeholders at every level. "We've heard from state lawmakers who are unable to get information from Director Shinn," Gill said. "If you’re a lawmaker, and you can’t get information from the corrections head, what chance do you stand if you’re a family member?"

Gill faulted Shinn for failing to hold press conferences to address reporters about conditions in the prisons and said updates posted on the Department website are infrequent and vague.

"Every week it seems like there's a new scandal at the Department of Corrections, and in the wake of those scandals there's no information about what happened or what's being done to improve the situation," Gill said.

Regardless of who is leading the Department, Gill said FAMM will be partnering with Arizona-based  The Start Project to advocate for greater oversight of the Department of Corrections.

"Arizona taxpayers deserve better," Gill said. "Especially when you're paying a billion dollars every year to an agency that's in charge of human lives."

Gill says FAMM has never before asked for the removal of a corrections director in its 30-year history.

The Governor's Office and Director Shinn’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.