LANSING, MICH. - Safety of Michigan prisoners and employees was compromised when prison workers apparently reported cell searches that didn't happen, failed to perform some searches and performed others too quickly, auditors said in a damning report out Thursday.
The Michigan Auditor General's review of the Huron Valley Correctional Facility, the state's only women's prison, also found workers failed to perform some required employee searches, failed to adequately track dangerous tools, and that the department failed to appropriately train some employees.
"To us, the results of this audit are not acceptable and it's not indicative of the way prisons are run across the state," Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said Thursday. "There's no excuse for failure to follow the policies that we have … and, where appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken."
Auditors said, however, that they found similar problems in 2008 and the department promised improvements then, too. Gautz said the department is reviewing why reforms may not have continued after the 2008 audit and is making clear to employees that "audits are to be taken seriously and are not to be just put in a drawer."
Auditors said they could not find video footage to support 58 of 170 cell checks reported in July and December. The rest of the searches were done in as little as three seconds, "raising concerns regarding the thoroughness of the searches or whether the searches actually occurred," auditors said. They also said employees "did not conduct or document" 60 of the required searches auditors reviewed.
During the searches, corrections officers look not only for drugs or other banned items but also weapons prisoners might use to harm themselves, other inmates or officers.
Key to that point, auditors also noted that they could not find 21 "controlled inventory items," including a cutting machine and two snow shovels. Gautz said it appears the tools are not missing but only that paperwork for them wasn't properly filled out.
Still, he said that paperwork is key to safety and the department would crack down on making sure tools are properly logged.
The audit is the latest problem for the women's prison, which is located near Ypsilanti. Employees have also complained that the prison is overcrowded and understaffed. The state was criticized by the U.S. Justice Department last year for discriminating against female officers there. And earlier this year, the state was sued over an inmate suicide there.
State government is also dealing with other allegations of records manipulation.
Earlier this year, the State Journal reported allegations from current and former Michigan Department of Health & Human Services employees that supervisors in at least seven counties manipulated employee caseload and other records to make the state appear in compliance with a federal court order. DHHS said it has investigated and found no wrongdoing, but monitors appointed by a federal judge and Oversight Committee chairmen in both the state House and the state Senate have vowed to investigate.
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