Governor Terry Branstad today said state prison officials are conducting a “total review” of security at the medical unit on the Iowa State Penitentiary grounds where Sunday’s prison break happened.
“I think it was pretty ingenious in what he came up with,” Branstad said. “I guess most prison escapes are, but it’s stupid, absolutely stupid when you’re on a 10 year sentence to escape prison. You like end up either being dead or serving a lot longer period of time, so prison escapes are not smart things to do.”
Twenty-five-year-old Justin Kestner escaped sometime between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“He had like 67 feet of bedsheets that he used as kind of a rope, which is an unbelievable amount and then he also crawled through a very narrow area that is supposed to be too small for a person to crawl through,” Branstad said. “So all of these things are going to be reviewed and determine how this happened and certainly we want to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”
The inmate stole a car in nearby Wever and made it about 100 miles before his capture mid-morning Sunday just south of Geneseo, Illinois.
“We were very fortunate to be able to capture the individual that escaped within less than half a day,” Branstad said. “And I want to thank the law enforcement people in both Iowa and Illinois that played a key role in that.”
Branstad told reporters this morning at his weekly news conference that there’s no need to increase the number of prison guards in reaction to this incident.
“There’s plenty of staff and the staff did, in fact, view this unit, I think, several times during the night,” Branstad said. “But this individual was in the John Bennett unit which is actually designed as a medical unit. It’s not part of the old prison. It’s an addition that was built about 10 years ago, I think.”
A new maximum security prison near the old “Fort” has been built, but design flaws have plagued the project and delayed the new prison’s opening by more than a year. The governor expects inmates to be moved into the new prison sometime later this summer or early this fall.