Whistleblower Who Exposed Broken Prison Locks Found Dead at 31

By Jessica Swarner

March 10, 2020

Leaked videos of the facility’s glaring security risks sparked an overhaul of the state’s entire corrections department. 

Gabriela Contreras, the corrections officer who leaked videos of broken locks on cell doors at Lewis Prison to the media, was found dead late Sunday night. 

According to ABC15, Contreras’ death is being treated by investigators as a suicide. 

Contreras sent surveillance footage to ABC15 last April that showed inmates at the Buckeye prison moving freely in and out of their cells due to the broken locks throughout the facility. The leaked recordings included violent altercations between inmates and guards, exposing the dangerous conditions prevalent throughout the facility.

Following ABC15’s report on the videos, Gov. Doug Ducey called for an outside investigation into Lewis Prison. The state also moved about 700 inmates to another prison and ordered emergency padlocks for about 1,000 cells.

About a month after leaking the videos, Contreras revealed her identity and also accused Lewis Prison managers of telling employees to alter reports to make the broken door problem not seem so bad. 

Contreras also claimed that she had been caught downloading the videos before leaking them, resulting in a weeklong suspension. She said she overhead her supervisor, Deputy Warden Travis Scott, talking with other staff members about firing her.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan retired a few months after the videos became public. He was replaced by David Shinn.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of Correctional Officer III Ana Gabriela Contreras, who passed away early this morning,” Shinn said in a statement to ABC15. “This is a sad day for us all, and [a] tragic loss as she was a valued member of our team.”


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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