Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Technology or the Tower

I actually feel sorry for the chain of command at Fort Madison prison. The national news, by way of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, picked up the story of our recently escaped murderers. Oops. (Link to transcripts)

COOPER: Well, joining me now by the telephone is Eugene Meyer, the director of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is helping the Fort Madison Police Department track down these killers.

At this point, what do you know about how they escaped?

EUGENE MEYER, DIRECTOR OF IOWA DIVISION OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: Well, we know that they scaled a wall and jumped through a roof and then to the ground, and at some point, found a bicycle, at least one of them found a bicycle and then came upon the running '95 Pontiac Bonneville that you just referenced in your report, and abandoned the bicycle and took the car.

COOPER: Now, one of the state senators has said that the stone wall was unguarded because of state budget cuts. Is that true, to your knowledge?

MEYER: Well, the focus of my job here is to locate and apprehend these two fugitives. I understand there's an independent review going on by the Department of Corrections that relates to the actual escape attempt.
The worst part of the report, Cooper focused on Senator Fraise’s comments attributing the escape to an underfunded corrections budget. As reported by Radio Iowa.

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.
The GOP guys, via Rep Lance Horbach, were quick to correct this miss information. From the Speaker's website:

…"The assertion that staffing levels were inadequate is false and misleading. In reality, we should explore why the taut wire system failed to alert guards and security staff that these two convicts were attempting to escape.

"The Department of Corrections (DOC), under the direction of previous head Kip Kautzky, stated that this new technology would enable us to divert resources from the tower to Correction Officers on the ground.

"As such, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), in his own budget submitted to the Legislature, made the recommendation in his budget, meaning the DOC would not need as many correctional officers in the towers.

"The fact is, the prisons received more than the governor - and the prisons themselves - even requested. …

… Funding levels from the past two fiscal years are as follows:

FY06 Budget, Department of Corrections - Institutions.

Appropriates $211,307,384 to the State's nine institutions. This represents an increase of approximately $5.6 million from FY05.

FY05 Budget - Section 160

Appropriates $204,819,509 to the Department of Corrections Institutions. This is a $4.7 million increase compared to FY04. This represents increased funding from FY04, and is the Governor's recommended level. These funding levels are more than the department requests.

Unfortunately, this important correction didn’t make it to Anderson Cooper’s desk. I guess the GOP guys will have to call Fox, that unfair & unbalanced news source.

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