What follows is an open letter to the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles L. Ryan, from a former deputy warden of his, Carl ToersBijns. For those of you who missed it, Mr. ToersBijns was interviewed by Channel 12 recently, calling on Ryan to resign. Ryan was asked to respond, of course, at which point he called Carl a disgruntled employee, hence the reference to that in the letter below.
Mr. ToersBijns recently published two books about his career with the Arizona and New Mexico prison systems: "Wasted Honor", and "Wasted Honor II: Underground Power", which I ordered and skimmed through after we connected, wanting a better sense of the man before publishing his letter here. They aren't tell-all books; there are really only a handful of references to Ryan in them (though they serve as examples of how not to be a good department director). Carl's intent appears to be to train others going into the field of corrections, not to slander his former colleagues or boss. I suspect there are many secrets he still keeps.
I originally received the letter below by email on August 17, 2010. Between the several exchanges we had about it, his public posts and the interview, and my cursory review of his books, I am convinced that the letter is authentic. Carl is hardly an abolitionist (he was quick to tell me he isn't a liberal either, but I do believe he's more progressive than most men in this state). We have vastly different perspectives on incarceration (especially on solitary confinement and special management units, or SMUs), but my impression is that he is a sincere man who does not frivolously engage in character assassination or vindictive crusades. He appears to be motivated by a genuine concern for the public's safety, the success of corrections officers in assuring security and facilitating rehabilitation, and the welfare of those committed to the custody and care of the state. Carl evidences considerable compassion for prisoners who are mentally ill, in particular.
I am not so sure that the same can be said for Director Ryan, however, as he and his staff have ceased communicating with me on all matters. I've had a couple of public demonstrations and challenged him on a few things, and I think he's punishing me with the silent treatment, now - he knows how much I hate it. I'd lose my mind in an SMU - which is precisely where he'd put me if he could, I'm sure, so watch my back out there please, folks. I'll be coming out with a lot more on the ADC soon.
The only edits I made below were for formatting purposes, by the way - the content is all Carl's. This, I think, takes real courage...
Open letter to Mr. Ryan.
I have only told a few but I put it in my book about my relationship with you [Mr. Ryan]. I was somewhat taken by your name calling referring to me as a disgruntled employee. Yes, I did leave sudden and I gave the Agency my two weeks notice. However, what I didn't say out loud is why we are ethically apart.
On May 13th last year, you said something in a general [warden's meeting] setting about a family member of mine. A man [family member] I have never met to this day, but who was the brother of my wife and incarcerated in Lewis. You, Mr. Ryan, told the former warden of Lewis complex this man [family member] deserved to die. You told the warden on the pretense of an "inside joke" some inmates deserve everything they are entitled to (per the grievance policy) except RH, who deserves to die.
(Obviously, you didn't know this inmate was my wife's brother incarcerated in Lewis and who has a very serious crime and considered by me to be a very bad individual with poor moral values).
I kept this mentioning of your comments about her brother from my wife and my mother in law for a month - I never ever kept anything from my wife - we had no secrets and I felt like (inappropriate term) keeping it inside and pretending all was ok. We [Ryan] had a face to face and we agreed to disagree and we moved on. You gave me a director's coin and we parted. It was never pleasant around you nor did I believe you were sincere when you offered an apology to me in your email stating "Nor, would I have had any knowledge that you had a family connection to an inmate in our system."
Since then I let it go and worked on the issues at hand. Yes I left sudden cause I had the time of service and age to retire. He had no integrity with me and I could no longer work for this man. I said this in my resignation letter that I handed to my warden... Disgruntled, not me, disenchanted, very much, I thought leaders were men or women who serve others and not themselves. Character counts and you Mr. Ryan, have no character when it comes to leadership and taking care of your staff and the public.
Respectfully submitted "Kodiakbears" [Carl ToersBijns]
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