A state senator from Fort Madison said on today (Tuesday) that the two convicted murderers who escaped Monday evening from the state’s maximum security prison used a rope to go over a wall and went undetected because a guard tower was unmanned due to budget cuts.
State Senator Eugene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, said during an interview with Radio Iowa that after about five o’clock in the afternoon, the prison’s three guard towers stand empty. “When they put up the ‘hot wire’…that was supposed to signal if anybody gets near it, that was supposed to take care of all the security problems and we wouldn’t have to have men in the tower,” Fraise said. “I never liked that idea. I always thought that those towers ought to be manned. They were put there for a reason, and that was security.”
Fraise said when any of the three towers at “The Fort” is shut down, that is a “breach of security” in his eyes. Fraise is co-chair of the legislative panel that drafts the budget for the Department of Corrections, and he expects this issue to be debated when the Iowa General Assembly convenes in January.
“We’ll talk about it and the department will say ‘O.K., we can man the tower if you give us more money,'” Fraise said. Fraise talked with a guard who works inside the prison Tuesday morning, and was on a conference call with the governor and other officials.
Fraise said he doesn’t know the exact details how the two prisoners were able to escape. But according to Fraise, most of the past escapes happened on the east side of the prison when inmates broke out windows and jumped out, but on the other side — where this latest prison break occurred — a prisoner has to scale over and down a wall.
“There’s razor wire around the inside of that wall and to get past that razor wire and then to get over the wall is quite a feat,” Fraise said. “My understanding is they used a rope, which a rope can be made of about anything, blankets or whatever, and some kind of metal grapple hook that they (threw) up over the wall.”
Both of the prisoners worked in prison industries, using tools to make furniture. “So they had access to metal and I’m sure they fashioned their hooks there and hid ’em,” Fraise said. He said Fort Madison residents aren’t “too worked up” about the prison break because the prisoners “want to get away from the area” and “could be in Colorado by now.”