A Month After Prison Escape, Michigan’s Prison Director: “We Let The People Of Ionia Down”

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IONIA, Mich. (March 4, 2014) – A month after Michael Elliot, a convicted quadruple killer, escaped from a prison in Ionia, the city council got a chance to ask questions to the Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns.

FOX 17 was the only station at the Ionia City Council meeting Tuesday night when the MDOC director gave his apology for the escape and issued a promise.

“We failed in our mission,” said Heyns.  “We are all about protecting the public, and with that escape we let the people of Ionia down.  Now I want to reassure you, it will be my mission not to let that happen again.”

The DOC director said he takes the escape of Elliot personally. Elliot broke out of prison on Super Bowl Sunday and was later captured in Indiana.

“We know what happened,” he said.  “I knew what happened the night I came down here.”

About $2 billion a year are spent on corrections in the state.  Heyns said Elliot’s escape had little to do with a lack of funding. “We had the stuff and the staff in place,” he said. “The policy wasn’t followed. But I don’t thinking throwing people or money at it is going to solve the problem.”

The corrections director talked about fast-tracking a need for new lights and cameras at the prison in Ionia and moving away from sirens and more towards a cell phone alert system in case of prison breaks.

As for city leadership, Ionia Mayor Dan Balice said he was happy to hear someone take some responsibility for what happened.

“He took some accountability,” said Balice. “I greatly appreciate that he did from the beginning. But we have to see what they discover. How do they go forward and try and make sure to the extent possible that this can’t happen again?”

Elliot was classified as a level-2 prisoner, which gave him some freedom, as opposed to higher classified prisoners.  The director said that, as long as he is in charge, Elliot will have a different classification and a different, more secure holding cell in prison.

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