EXCLUSIVE: Whistleblowers tell @kjzzphoenix a software bug is keeping hundreds of inmates in Arizona prisons beyond their release dates - Sources say Department of Corrections leadership has known about the problem since 2019 kjzz.org/content/166098…
According to Arizona Department of Corrections whistleblowers, hundreds of incarcerated people who should be eligible for release are being held in prison because the inmate management software cannot interpret current sentencing laws.
As of 2019, the Department had spent more than $24 million contracting with IT company Business & Decision, North America to build and maintain the software program, known as ACIS, that is used to manage the inmate population in state prisons.
Senate Bill 1310 amended the Arizona Revised Statutes so that certain inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses could earn additional release credits upon the completion of programming in state prisons. Gov. Ducey signed the bill in June of 2019
But the ACIS software is not still able to identify inmates who qualify for SB 1310 programming, nor can it calculate their new release dates:

“We knew from day one this wasn’t going to work” a source said. “When they approved that bill, we looked at it and said ‘Oh shit.’”
After repeated internal warnings, employees sent a report to department leadership in October, 2020, specifically detailing the software bug.
“Currently this calculation is not in ACIS at all,” the report states. “ACIS can calculate 1 earned credit for every 6 days served, but this is a new calculation.”
Instead of fixing the bug, sources said employees are attempting to identify qualifying inmates manually:

"We can't find people to get them into the programs, and after they complete the programs, we still can’t get them out the door. These people are literally trapped.”
DOC confirmed the “data is being calculated manually and then entered into the system.”

Department sources said this means “someone is sitting there crunching numbers with a calculator and interpreting how each of the new laws that have been passed would impact an inmate.”
“It makes me sick,” one source said, noting that even the most diligent employees are capable of making math errors that could result in additional months or years in prison for an inmate. “What the hell are we doing here? People’s lives are at stake.”
But the sentence calculation programming issues are “just the tip of the iceberg.” According to the sources, the entire inmate management software program, known as ACIS, has experienced more than 14,000 bugs since it was implemented in November of 2019.
Employees tried to speak up before the software rollout, but said they were instructed by department leadership to “not say a word” about their concerns:

“We were told ‘We’re too deep into it — too much money had been spent — we can’t go back now.’”
Department sources say several other software programs have failed to perform correctly, including modules that track

- inmate health care
- head counts
- inmate property
- commissary and financial accounts
- religious affiliation
- security classification
- gang affiliations
“We have put people in cells together who are in conflicting gangs without realizing it. We can’t keep the right medication with inmates when they are transferred to a new unit. We’re putting people in danger. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed or dies.”
"In one instance there was a disciplinary action erroneously entered on an inmate's record, but there's no way to back it out," a source said. "So that guy was punished and he wasn’t able to make a phone call for 30 days. Those are the kinds of things that eat at you every day.”
The ACIS software program was poorly scoped, and the project is millions of dollars over budget, leading to endless contract amendments with the vendor to pay for updates and maintenance
A 2020 audit of DOC by the Arizona Department of Auditor General found nearly $1 million in unreconciled inmate trust accounts. According to the audit, the department blamed the unresolved accounts on - Guess What? - the software system! kjzz.org/content/163247…
One department whistleblower said the number of problems with the ACIS system was unprecedented in their professional experience:

“I have never in my life run across an application like this,” they said. “It’s just been one big cluster.”
All of the sources that spoke to KJZZ emphasized the need for more programming hours from the vendor that could be used on maintenance and support:

“When they legislate these things, they need to be appropriating enough money to make sure they work."
That warning is very timely, because there are currently several bills in the Arizona Legislature that would expand eligibility for earned release credits to even more inmates than the standard set by SB 1310
DOC sources claim poor leadership is ultimately to blame for the IT problems:

“There are choices being made like business decisions, when they need to be thinking about what’s in the best interest of the staff, and ultimately, what’s in the best interest of the inmates."
One source said they were “disgusted” with the way the department has mishandled the software problems:

"It’s absolutely inhumane to keep people in prison longer than they are supposed to be.”
Coming up at 10:00 AM - House Appropriations Committee agenda includes HB2167, a bill that would create an independent ombudsman and oversight committee to monitor the Arizona Department of Corrections - Watch Live: azleg.gov/videoplayer/?c…
Background on this Department of Corrections oversight legislation kjzz.org/content/165962…
Committee is live at this link azleg.gov/videoplayer/?c…
Impact: This story has been live for 6 hours - 5 state Representatives just cited our @kjzzphoenix
reporting as they voted to approve legislation that would create greater oversight of the Department of Corrections
Update: The Department of Corrections has responded to our reporting - they say the allegations that inmates are held beyond release dates are false, but in the same paragraph they admit they are not currently able to calculate release dates in accordance with state law!!
Can't hold someone beyond their release date if you don't know when it is!
Full response from DOC

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22 Feb
Coming up at 10:00 AM - House Appropriations Committee agenda includes HB2167, a bill that would create an independent ombudsman and oversight committee to monitor the Arizona Department of Corrections - Watch Live: azleg.gov/videoplayer/?c…
Background on HB2167 kjzz.org/content/165962…
Committee is live at this link azleg.gov/videoplayer/?c…
Read 17 tweets
12 Feb
Don't Kill My Vibe: Arizona Inmate Alleges @kendricklamar CD Ban Is Unconstitutional In Appeal To 9th Circuit kjzz.org/content/165846…
When an inmate receives a letter, magazine, book or CD in the mail, prison administrators review the materials first. If the items fall within one of several broad categories established by Department of Corrections guidelines, the inmate is denied the material.
Reasons for exclusion can include “depictions of street gangs” to “descriptions of drug paraphernalia.”

While the Department has made revisions, the guidelines for these publications have been repeatedly ruled to be unconstitutional in federal court because they were overbroad
Read 11 tweets
10 Feb
Starting in 2 minutes - Committee On Criminal Justice Reform in the House of Representatives at the Arizona statehouse azleg.gov/videoplayer/?c… Image
HB2320 would expand the ability to seal arrest and sentencing records - @StevenScharbone just gave a really powerful statement on why he thinks it should be expanded to more formerly incarcerated people to help them with challenges they face azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/… Image
Speaker raising concerns on behalf Phoenix Newspapers Inc, which publishes the Arizona Republic, states concerns about "wholesale sealing" of records Image
Read 15 tweets
23 Jan
Story Updated: Inmates in Arizona, California & New Mexico can't access stimulus payments because the IRS sent debit cards to the prisons. @ysalahi tells me it's "consistent with a pattern of the IRS failing to work with state correctional authorities"
More: The Arizona Department of Corrections just released this inmate notification: "The Internal Revenue Service has sent a large number of stimulus debit cards to ADCRR . . . there is no system in place to process debit cards."
More details from an incarcerated person in Arizona about the confusion this debit card debacle is causing:

"Here is the general problem. Whenever something is sent to a prisoner which would be prohibited, the prisoner should get a contraband form/notification . . .
Read 13 tweets
22 Jan
BREAKING: The Arizona Department of Corrections says it's unable to process the second federal stimulus payment for inmates because the IRS is distributing the money on debit cards. The Department says many other states are experiencing the same problem kjzz.org/content/165286…
It was not immediately clear how many inmates in AZ state prisons have been affected. Several relatives of people in state prisons have contacted KJZZ in recent days, saying their family members, located at different prisons across the state, were told the money was not available
When asked about the payments, Arizona Department of Corrections spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux said “Whether or not an inmate has received or will receive a CARES Act payment is an issue between the inmate and the IRS.” - I am still awaiting a response from the IRS
Read 6 tweets
1 Dec 20
I've just received word that the incarcerated men I emailed for comment on this story have been contacted by prison staff and warned not to respond
Message from an inmate to their family member regarding my emails: "If you contact him, it's important he knows that everyone he contacted wants to respond but fears retaliation"
When ADC abolished inmate phone interviews with the press this summer, they pointed out that "media may exchange an unlimited number of emails" with inmates - now they're shutting down that communication as well
Read 4 tweets

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