Last month’s prison break from the penitentiary in Fort Madison has spurred talk of building a new maximum security prison — but some lawmakers says there’s no need to rush into it.
Senate republican leader Steward Iverson of Clarion says it’s an issue that needs a long look. He says, “I think we might want to study it a bit longer than just one year.”
The State Board of Corrections is review security at Fort Madison and will make recommendations on its future on January 13th. Iverson says there’s more involved than just deciding to put up a new building.
He says many legislators have gone through the process of building a new prison. Iverson says the building is the cheap part, he says determining how much it would cost to staff a new prison is something they’d need to look at and he says it may be hard to do that in one year.
Senate democratic leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says he doesn’t want to pre-judge any decision — but says anything approved by the legislature must deal with more than Fort Madison. He says, “Eventually 98-percent of the people who go to prison are coming out. And we’ve got to have a system that doesn’t just speak to the one issue of the facility at Fort Madison. That it speaks to the whole issue of corrections. We’ve got to be smart on corrections.” He says it shouldn’t be a “knee jerk” reaction, as he says legislators have to look at the system from top to bottom and chose a solution that makes sense.
Gronstal says democrats would like to see more money go to drug courts which allow offenders to avoid prison time if they agree to treatment.