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One of two hostages released from prison guard tower

One of two correctional officers held hostage by two inmates for nearly a week climbed down from a prison guard tower to safety Saturday.

The guard, a man who was not immediately identified, was being taken to a hospital after being released, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Cam Hunter. She had no immediate details on his condition but said authorities were encouraged he was able to walk down the ladder on his own.

His release occurred after negotiators delivered an item demanded by the inmates, Hunter said. She did not reveal what the inmates were given.

Negotiators were still working for the freedom of the other hostage, a woman who remained with the two inmates in the tower, which is believed to be stocked with weapons.

Fellow correctional officers were heartened by the release.

"The negotiators are doing a fine job. This is a good sign that they were able to come to some kind of agreement," said Joe Masella, president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers' Association.

The release of the correctional officer occurred after an inmate, wearing a guard's uniform jacket, lowered a bucket over the side of the three-story tower and then pulled it back up.

A ladder was placed against the side of the tower, and a short time later an officer could be seen putting on a backpack and climbing down the ladder as the inmate held the top of the ladder.

After the guard descended, the inmate shoved the ladder away from the side.

The inmates took the guards hostage Jan. 18 in the tower at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, west of Phoenix.

Authorities have not discussed the inmates' possible motive and have not released any details on their identities or previous crimes. They've also declined to say how the inmates got into the tower.

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