Sunday, February 9, 2014

After an escape comes the blame game

There's a lot of finger-pointing in the Michigan prison system these days, as details of a daring escape from an Ionia prison begin to leak out. The more we learn, the more we discover that the real criminals were not among the inmate population. They were in various levels of our complicated, complex and confusing corrections program.

First among the finger pointers is the corrections officers union. The escapee was able to get white clothing like that worn in the prison kitchens, and the kitchen administration these days has been out-sourced to Aramark...a national company that doesn't have a great reputation. “If we had been running the kitchen, this guy wouldn't have been able to sneak out with white clothes,” some union members contend. That's quite interesting, because we've heard for years that inmates with the right connections in the kitchen can easily pilfer fruit juice, yeast, and other ingredients to help make their own booze.

While it is true that there are many fine and honorable corrections officers, the union is going to have to bite its tongue a bit in this case. The escape happened during the Super Bowl game, when someone didn't notice unusual activity on the surveillance screen. I wonder what screen they were watching? And a guard walked right past the guy, as he hid in the snow with his all-white apparel. Did he not notice, or did he not care?

And even though administration officials are pointing to employees at lower levels, the buck stops at the top. We regularly hear reports of contraband getting into the prisons, often by being thrown over fences around the yard. If we hear these reports on a regular basis, administrators must be deaf if they claim to hear nothing. It's plain to see that all the junk getting into our prisons isn't being brought in by the visitors.

The short-lived escape is going to do nothing but severe damage to that inmate's claim of wrongful conviction. But he will have done a huge favor to the MDOC if we finally get long-overdue house-cleaning and reform. Only time will tell.

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