State prison chief: Escape 'had nothing to do with' budget cuts

Feb 13, 2014

The head of the state’s prison system blames a murderer’s recent escape from an Ionia prison largely on human error. That prisoner escaped earlier this month, and was caught in Indiana the next day.

Democrats want to know whether budget cuts had a role in the escape.  

Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Dan Heyns told a state Senate budget panel Thursday that the prison had all the resources, equipment, and procedures it needed to prevent the escape.

Heyns says the blame falls on him and his department – not on the governor and state lawmakers.

“I think it’s safe to say that the root causes of this escape had nothing to do with budget cuts. The funding was there,” said Heyns.

“There were a lot of people out of the chute that rendered their opinion about what had happened here, and most of those people didn’t know what they were talking about. And that’s what we’re determining with this investigation – fact from fiction.”

Heyns says he can’t go into detail about just what the failures were until the department and the state attorney general’s office finish their investigations.

MDOC and the state attorney general’s office are investigating the incident separately. But Democrats in Lansing say neither can be trusted to be impartial about the case. They say Republicans are not likely to blame budget cuts that Republican lawmakers approved.

Two Ionia prison employees have been suspended since the escape.