A top corrections official Friday said it’ll cost twice the original estimate to build a new prison in Iowa. The proposal came up after two inmates escaped last month. Governor Tom Vilsack suggested replacing the state penitentiary in Fort Madison, at a cost of about forty-Million dollars.
But Robyn Mills, chair of the Board of Corrections, today said the cost would closer to a hundred-Million.
“The parameters for a maximum-security prison are different,” Mills explained. She says compared with a medium-security prison, they have to have single-prisoner cells, more security, more guards.
Mills says it’d be much more though this is strictly an estimate. The Board of Corrections is studying whether to replace the Fort Madison penitentiary and whether to plan a new one on land the state already owns, just half a mile from the current prison. She says they’d save money on the physical plant on that way, and on administration that wouldn’t require a new warden, business manager and “a whole upper echelon,” and a workforce of guards already trained to work with maximum security prisoners. She adds if the state built a new facility, its operating cost would be far lower than the expense of running the old penitentiary, which was built in 1839.
Right now she says it takes 417 correctional officers to staff a prison with 500 inmates. Mills says the board thinks that staff could be cut by at least 100. The Corrections Board will make its recommendation later this month on the fate of the Fort Madison prison, and the next move will be up to the governor and legislators.