LANSING – House Democrats called for an independent investigation today into the recent escape from a state prison in Ionia by a man convicted on four counts of murder. The convict took about an hour to make his way through prison fencing during his escape. Republicans cut prison perimeter safety funding by $15.6 million in fiscal year 2013, resulting in the loss of more than 135 full-time prison security jobs throughout Michigan, including Ionia.

“The people of Michigan deserve to know if the Republicans’ relentless cuts to public safety have put them at risk,” House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said. “One of the Legislature’s most serious tasks is to provide for public safety, and people have a right to know if those in charge of our state government have let them down. We can’t trust the governor and Republican leaders of the Legislature to fairly assess whether their own budget cuts put people in harm’s way. There must be an independent investigation.”

Republican politicians in Lansing have called for an investigation, but House Democrats counter that’s not enough. The investigation should include the involvement of prison staffers, the Michigan Corrections Organization, the Department of Corrections, people who live near state prisons and additional professional experts not affiliated with Michigan state government. Without this broader base of input, Republican leaders may gloss over the impact of reduced prison perimeter security funding.

“Having a truly independent analysis of the connection between cutting funding for prison security in Michigan and an increased likelihood of escape is just plain common sense,” Rep. Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) said. “We simply can’t have legislators, who are not prison security experts, putting families who live near prisons at more risk than they may already be. Public safety is too important. A comprehensive review will help guide rational — not political — prison security policy decisions going forward.”