A prominent member of the State Board of Corrections today (Thursday) criticized the governor for “rushing to a decision” to build a new prison. The governor called for a new maximum-security prison after the state corrections director recommended one last week. The current state penitentiary in Fort Madison has come under fire after two inmates escaped in November. But corrections board member Art Neu says the governor did not give them enough time to determine if a new prison is really needed. “He wanted us to tell him to build a new prison,” Neu says of the governor, “and I don’t want a new prison yet. I think there are some other alternatives that we should be looking at.”
For example, Neu is particularly interested in designating a single prison for drug offenders. He says this one of several innovative ideas the board could have researched for the governor if given more time. But so far there’s no urgency to debate on a new prison this year at the statehouse. Neu says he doesn’t think anything’s going to happen, adding “The legislature’s never in a hurry to do anything with corrections.”
Neu says, “given that the part of our [prison] population that’s growing fastest are the drug addictions, mostly meth, maybe we ought to consider an institution that does nothing but treat drug offenders.” Neu says there are some innovative things the prison system could be doing, if it had support from the governor and the legislature. In the meantime, Neu says the board of corrections will continue a broader study of the entire prison system.