The state’s top prison official says legal action is likely against the designers blamed for months of delays in opening a new state prison. Iowa Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says he still can’t say when the new Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison prison will open.
The facility’s smoke system needs certification. Baldwin says once the project is complete, it will be up to the attorney general to decide whether to seek compensation for the design flaws. “There is zero doubt there is liability on those who designed this,” Baldwin said. “If you added up all the problems with past prison projects, and they have been few, it wouldn’t even touch this.”
The cost of fixing the geothermal system and other problems may reach $5 million, according to Baldwin. The new prison was supposed to be up and running back in March. In the meantime, the Department of Corrections is staffing security officers at the new facility so they’re, in effect, running two prisons. “We’re running the old one and the new one,” Baldwin said. “There are no (prisoners) in the new one, but we took occupancy of it some time ago. We have staff up there to keep people out of the institution.”
Around 550 of the state’s toughest criminals are housed in the old Iowa State Pen, originally built in 1839. The new $130 million prison has room for 800 inmates. Baldwin updated progress on the prison at a budget hearing for the Department of Corrections.