The Iowa House will likely vote this week to spend money to investigate whether the state needs a new maximum security prison. But House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the legislature isn’t ready to make a final decision on the project this year. “I have said all along there may be a case for building a new prison…but you ought to thoroughly look at that issue and make that decision based on how does this fit into our whole prison plan,” Rants says. “You don’t make that decision based on the fact that two guys climbed the fence.”
In November, two inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison — the state’s maximum security prison — escaped but were later caught. Governor Tom Vilsack quickly called for construction of a new, maximum security prison in or near Fort Madison. Experts estimate it would cost about 80-million dollars to build.
“You don’t spent that kind of money because two guys got around the system, in part, because some people weren’t going their jobs and have been subsequently disciplined for that. That’s not the reason to build a new prison,” Rants says. “Maybe when the evaluation is done…a new prison has to be built but I think it takes some time and effort to come to the right conclusion.” The 100-member Iowa House is focusing today (Monday) and tomorrow on bills that sketch out the state spending plan for the next budgeting year.