Dept. of Corrections Already Addressing Recommendations in Prison Escape Report

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

When Michael Elliot escaped from the Ionia Correctional Facility on Super Bowl Sunday, he did it with planning, some luck and according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a lot of help from the prison itself.

In his prison escape report Schuette listed several security failures and personnel errors as reasons for the escape. None of them were surprising to the state Department of Corrections.

"The issues that he found, mirrored the issues we found," said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the department.

It means many of the Attorney General's recommendations to improve security are already getting addressed. Marlan says $11 million has been set aside this year for improvements and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"We have a long-term plan to invest over $42 million on lighting, cameras and other security issues."

Those include prisoner uniforms, counting procedures and security measures for those in prison for life without parole. However, none of those measures meet the report's recommendation to reconsider putting armed guards back in the towers or having an armed officer patrol perimeters full time.

Both have been phased out over the last several years, but they're seen as essential by the Michigan Corrections Organization, the corrections officers' union.

"If you asked people in the community, they would like to have those present. It keeps everyone safe," said MCO Executive Director Mel Grieshaber, who believes the very presence of an armed guard high above prison grounds can make a difference.

"As soon as a fight starts, one warning shot will stop all that prisoner activity."

The towers are currently staffed off-and-on, while front-lobby officers patrol the perimeter whenever they can. Marlan says there are no plans to change either one.

"That's something we evaluated as it pertained to that escape, but we hadn't made any changes to the staffing on those," he said.

The Department of Corrections will continue to look over Attorney General Schuette's report throughout the next several weeks.

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