I was appalled at the escape of Michael Elliot, a convicted murderer, from Ionia’s maximum security prison.
That night, our communities were put at risk.
With a great deal of courage and intelligence, the woman abducted by Michael Elliot was able to escape. That could have been you or me, or our sister or our mother.
I have always had a great appreciation and respect for those who work in the corrections field. It is a stressful job that is critically important to our communities’ safety.
However, to my dismay, in a cost-cutting frenzy, the Synder administration in Lansing decided to ignore warnings from the corrections officers who do this dangerous work, and revamped the whole system in order to save money. It is upsetting that their voices were ignored. They replaced a proven system with one which has now been proven not to work.
Specifically, the guard towers built to provide a human protection against escape were not manned because those positions were eliminated.
We need to have honest answers about how this happened and what we can do about preventing such escapes in the future. The safety of our communities depends on it.
I am most angered by the many elected officials in Lansing who want to blame corrections officers for Lansing’s failure. These politicians were more interested in budget cuts than community safety and ignored correction officers’ advice in the first place.
There has also been much talk about an officer passing nearby in a car during the escape. Did we expect Michael Elliot to stand up and wave to him?
If the guard towers had been manned, as they should have been in this prison, a corrections officer might have easily seen the tracks in the snow.
Many thanks go out to those public safety employees who captured the escapee and who allowed us all to take a deep breath of relief.
Questions still remain about the decision making in Lansing. Are their priorities in the right order and in line with citizens’ wishes? Let’s hope that corrections officers, administrators, and local leaders get a voice at the table so that we all can feel safe once again.
Lynn Mason is a retired Belding Area Schools teacher. She is an Ionia County Commissioner and a candidate for the State House in the 86th District. She and her husband, Frank, own an apple orchard.
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