Audits: Tool control problems at Ionia prison

The Ionia Correctional Facility. (Feb. 3, 2014)
The Ionia Correctional Facility. (Feb. 3, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Prisons try to control tools that can could be used as weapons — but state audits show they don’t always succeed.

Michael Elliot, convicted of four 1993 murders, was on the run for about 24 hours after escaping from a state prison outside of Ionia. He was captured Monday evening in Indiana.

Michael Elliot. (Courtesy LaPorte County Sheriff's Office - Feb. 3, 2014)

Michael Elliot. (Courtesy LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office – Feb. 3, 2014)

It’s still unclear how and where he got a hammer and a box cutter that he used to carjack a woman in Ionia, who then then forced to drive him to the Elkhart, Ind. area.

“We went to great lengths to make sure that these guys didn’t have any weapons or anything these guys could make into weapons,” former prison guard Aaron Cobb told 24 Hour News 8.

Inside woodtv.com: Former guard: Elliot’s escape a ‘mystery’

That includes tools. Cobb said there are policies about how every tool in a prison is handled and accounted for.

There are policies about which tools are dangerous and those that are less so: Like the difference between an inmate using a leaf rake and another using a knife in the kitchen.

“Policy dictates what level of supervision required for each tool,” Cobb said. “So whether it’d be intermittent, like a rake, intermittent throughout the day or something like a knife, where an officer has to have eyes on him at all times.”

But state audits show that Michigan prisons don’t always have good control over tools.

In 2009, auditors found problems at the Ionia Correctional Facility, the prison from which Elliot escaped.

There were at the time 52 storage areas and hundreds or maybe thousands of tools.  But there was no accurate, current master tool inventory. And not all the tools were properly marked and color-coded or classified by danger level.

At the time, the prison told state auditors that they were correcting the problems.

It’s still unknown if Elliot got the hammer and box cutter in prison or found them after he escaped.

“They shouldn’t have any access to any type of weapon like that, so that’s going to be one of the things that the investigation hopefully will turn up is how he got it,” Cobb said.

24 Hour News 8 contacted state corrections officials by phone and email Tuesday, but had not received a response by late afternoon.

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Inside woodtv.com:

Michael Elliot: Escaped through ‘quick thinking’

Elliot captured in Ind. after chase

Elliot escapes from Ionia Correctional Facility

Former guard: Elliot’s escape a ‘mystery’

‘Thorough’ investigation of escape promised

Son ‘proud’ of Elliot’s carjack victim for staying calm

Victim’s mother worried Elliot would kill again

Life as a Level II prison inmate