The Iowa Board of Corrections has approved a plan to seek nearly 291-million dollars to improve the state’s prison system. The proposal includes new facilities to replace the Fort Madison penitentiary and the women’s prison in Mitchellville. State Senator Tom Hancock is chair of the Justice System Appropriations subcommittee.
"The Fort Madison facility would make a good medieval castle for somebody," Hancock says of the structure that was built in 1839. "Something has to be done. I think we have to sit down, and I’m going to keep an open mind and listen to all the facts and suggestions." The proposal will be presented to a legislative study panel on Wednesday.
Hancock, who is a Democrat from Epworth, says the state’s maximum security prison in Fort Madison is simply old and inefficient. "It’s all about security too," Hancock says, "I mean they’ve had the two escapes there and some provisions have been made to try and curtail that from ever happening again. And it takes a lot of manpower because of the type of facility that it is…and with a replacement facility, and the new technology, there might not be a need for as much manpower."
Governor Chet Culver is ready to start talking with legislators about how to pay for the new prisons. "We have had a very good process in place for those involved to ultimately make that recommendation," Culver says. "We need to do everything we can now at the legislature and in my office to try to find a way to pay for these recommendations." The two new prisons carry a price tag of 121-million dollars.
"We will look forward to having a discussion in a bipartisan way about options and alternatives we might have over the coming years to fund those two important projects," Culver says. The proposal also calls for expansion of community-based corrections in Waterloo, Ottumwa, Des Moines, and Sioux City – and upgrades or expansions to prisons in Newton, Mount Pleasant, Rockwell City, and Oakdale.