Governor Tom Vilsack says it wasn’t budget cuts but sloppy supervisors who cleared a path to freedom for two prisoners who escaped earlier this month from the state’s maximum security prison. Vilsack laid out more details this (Monday) morning during a news conference in Des Moines.
Vilsack says a supervisor was supposed to be “on the floor” counting and keeping track of prisoners working in prison industries — where the two soon-to-be-escapees were working. That supervisor wasn’t on the floor but was instead in an office. At the end of the shift, the prisoners were supposed to be counted, and that didn’t happen either. “That’s not about budget cuts. That’s not about processes or policies,” Vilsack says. “That’s just about someone not doing their job.”
The governor says had the prisoners been counted, the two inmates would have been easily tracked down. Vilsack says another concern is that the prison industries area where inmates build furniture is not being “shaken down” often enough to ensure prisoners aren’t fashioning weapons or tools for escape.
There were other security lapses. The inmates also went down four flights of steps and were not noticed by the person monitoring the cameras that cover the area. A guard in one of the prison towers that oversees the prison yard wasn’t positioned correctly to see the two men leave either, according to Vilsack.
And the governor says one final check-point could have stopped the two men. A car circles the prison 24 hours a day, but the person inside the car didn’t see the rope the men threw over the wall. “There were a lot of problems at the prison and we’ve taken steps quickly and specifically to address the issues that we think contributed to the escape,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack removed the warden at the penitentiary and several other workers were fired or reassigned. “I’ve not been given any information to date that would suggest that this was a result of not having enough people,” Vilsack says. “I think it’s really, bottom line, we just didn’t do the job we were supposed to do and the folks that were supposed to be doing the job have been held accountable.”
However, Vilsack says he personally bears no responsibility for the prison break. “I would if it was a budget issue,” Vilsack says. “I don’t think it’s a budget issue.” The state penitentiary is currently in lock down mode.