LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Corrections said Thursday it may take disciplinary action after auditors uncovered what a prison spokesman called “terrible” and “unacceptable” failures to conduct contraband searches of inmates, cells and staff at a women’s prison.
Auditor General Doug Ringler said during two five-day periods last year, the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti did not conduct or document nearly a quarter of the required cell searches and prisoner shakedowns. Using surveillance video, auditors also found that 58 of 170 required cell searches were not backed up by the footage — meaning they were potentially falsified.
The other two-thirds of cell searches took between 3 and 84 seconds to conduct, “raising concerns regarding the thoroughness of the searches or whether the searches actually occurred.”
Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said it does not matter if employees were either conducting the searches and not doing the paperwork, or not searching the cells and saying they did.
“Both of those scenarios are terrible and unacceptable,” he said. “So we’re going to be looking at every aspect of that. … It puts the staff and the prisoners in danger when they’re not following their own policies. It undermines the safety of the institution.”
Auditors also flagged the prison for not tracking dangerous tools, failing to do nearly a third of require employee searches and not ensuring that guards completed special training.
Gautz said the three material findings listed in the audit were the most identified inside a state prison since 2005. Employees will be disciplined where it is deemed appropriate, he said.
Huron Valley, which houses about 2,200 inmates, is the sole women’s prison in Michigan. Similar problems were discovered by auditors in 2008, when it was part of the larger Huron Valley Complex.
The latest audit generally covered from October 2015 through April of this year.
The Corrections Department requires each cell at Huron Valley to be searched at least once a month. Each first- and second-shift officer in a housing unit must randomly search at least two cells per shift. Each female officer with direct prisoner contact also must search at least five inmates in the first and second shift.