The Range

Big House Blues

Heads began a'rollin' at the Arizona Department of Corrections after news broke that a guard was caught snoozing in a watchtower less than a month after the longest prison hostage stand-off in the nation's history. When not sleeping on the job, guards are reportedly entertaining themselves by playing video games and listening to CDs. (The Range doesn't know which games they're playing, but we're betting Grand Theft Auto is a favorite.) Gov. Janet Napolitano's blue-ribbon committee found that lax security procedures, along with a shortage of experienced officers, allowed prisoners Steven Coy and Ricky Wassenaar to escape from kitchen duty and take a pair of guards hostage in a watchtower of the Morey Unit of the Lewis Complex near Buckeye. The report heaps blame on high turnover among correctional officers, noting that nearly one-fifth of the 1,029 positions at the Lewis Complex are vacant, and, at the time that Coy and Wassenaar made their break for freedom, 14 of the 20 officers on duty had less than one year's experience. The report notes that pay--less than $25,000 a year, with a signing bonus worth about five grand--pretty much stinks when you consider employees are risking their lives and spending their days in prison. (With that kind of paycheck, you might as well become a schoolteacher.) As a result, morale is lousy, and only one in four guards has more than three years of experience. By the end of the week, nine prison supervisors, including Lewis supervisor Meg Savage, were re-assigned, while the Napolitano administration tried to figure out who was gonna get the ax. Napolitano's pick to head up Corrections, Dora Schriro, still faces a sure-to-be-lively confirmation process with the Arizona Senate.

Here, Kitty-Kitty-Kitty

With chilly temps and heavy rains washing out the Diamondbacks' opening day at Tucson Electric Park, March came in like a mountain lion prowling the grounds of Sabino Canyon. In related news, at least three mountain lions have been prowling the grounds of Sabino Canyon. Park workers are determined to capture the lions and force them to pay a $5 entrance fee. We'll Drink to That

Showing an uncharacteristic embrace of sinful behavior, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill extending last call for alcohol to 2 a.m. Bars could remain open until 2:30 a.m. under the legislation, which is backed by Arizona's tourism industry. Opponents of the proposal, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and neighborhood activists, are lobbying state senators to put a cork in the bill. Teenage Wasteland

Desert View High School students have a novel approach to preparing for the AIMS test: roofies. A 16-year-old student was arrested for allegedly dealing Rohypnal, the date-rape drug that predators use to dose unsuspecting victims. The bust was among four Rohypnal incidents involving nine students in the last two weeks at the southside high school. Whatever It Costs, It's Worth It

The UA men's basketball team finished a lackluster 19-8 season with a 106-81 bitch-slapping of ASU. In your face, Sun Devils! Earlier in the week, the UA's Most Valuable Employee, coach Lute Olson, agreed to a four-year contract extension that will keep him through the 2009 Final Four. The financial details remained sealed up, but Olson now makes $627,000 from the UA and $350,000 from Nike.

By the Numbers

The state's pocketbook remains flush, according to the most recent numbers released by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The state bean-counters reported that January revenues were $8.8 million above the original forecast; for the fiscal year-to-date, the state has brought in almost $127 million more than originally predicted, driven mostly by sales and corporate income taxes. Good thing, too, because the JLBC predicts that next year's budget will have a shortfall of at least $300 million--even with the surplus figured in.
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