DOC report cites failures in prison escape - WNEM TV 5

DOC report cites failures in prison escape

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It was a prison break that sent officers from several states scrambling and now we know how a convicted murderer from Mid-Michigan got away.

Michael David Elliot escaped from the Ionia Correctional Facility on Feb. 2.

He told investigators the escape seed was first planted two years ago when a fellow inmate told him security at the prison was weak. But it wasn't until four months before his escape that he started to plan his moves.

All of it is detailed in a report released late Thursday by the Department of Corrections.

Elliot told investigators he skipped dinner on the night of his escape and changed into "white clothing which he had fabricated out of his thermal underwear" so that he could blend in to the snow.

Later that evening while out in the yard, he crawled in the snow toward the sally port - a place where inmates are transported in and out of the prison.

He made it under three fences, one was already damaged, the other two he picked apart using some crafting scissors and his belt.

Staying low to the ground proved to be the key though not entirely necessary.

As Elliot hid in the snow, an officer patrolling the prison perimeter passed right by him several times.

But two key sensors, called microwave zones, designed to detect movement just a few feet above the ground were not activated by corrections officers - something that requires just a click of a mouse.

The DOC report says this "failure to re-set the zones played a major role in the escape."

Investigators also cited a fence alarm called an E-flex Zone. It was de-activated several years ago when a different fence alarm was installed elsewhere.

The report says it "may prevent future escape attempts through this area and may have prevented this escape."

The report also addresses the prison's gun towers which were unstaffed - a move made by the DOC a while back to save money.

The report notes "enhanced video surveillance, shock fences, E-flex zones and microwave zones were put in place in lieu of staffing the gun towers."

Two of four those measures were not working at the time Elliot escaped.

As a result of this escape, the DOC has outlined an 11-point plan to take a hard look at security at all Michigan prisons including a review of all fences, gates and sally ports and prison uniforms.

Wardens are to submit their top five security requests to the department and staff can expect additional training.

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