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Federal inmate tried to shoot visitor in head at Ariz. prison camp

The weapon misfired and the female visitor was uninjured


The seal for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

By Michael Balsamo and Michael R. Sisak
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A federal prison inmate who was able to obtain a firearm at a prison camp in Arizona pulled out the gun in a visitation area and attempted to shoot a visitor in the head, The Associated Press has learned.

The weapon misfired and the female visitor was uninjured in Sunday’s incident at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson.

The incident marked a major security lapse and massive breach of protocol, raising serious questions about the security practices in place at the Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for more than 150,000 federal inmates.

The Bureau of Prisons tells the AP that the inmate attempted to fire the weapon, which had been concealed in the prison. But the weapon did not fire and no one was injured.

The incident happened at a minimum-security federal prison camp — most of which don’t even have fences and house inmates the Bureau of Prisons considers to be the lowest security risk.

Officials said the inmate was restrained and the firearm was seized. Federal officials have launched an investigation.

The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by chronic mismanagement, misconduct and a severe staffing crisis. A new director was brought on earlier this year as Justice Department officials attempt to reform the agency.

Federal prison camps were originally designed with low security to make operations easier and to allow inmates tasked with performing work at the prison, like landscaping and maintenance, to avoid repeatedly checking in and out of a main prison facility. But the lax security opened a gateway for contraband, such as drugs, cellphones and weapons.