Friends and family of Iowa prison inmates are speaking out against a reduction in visitation hours. Prison officials are making the move to save money as doing background checks on visitors and keeping guards on duty in the visiting rooms are labor-intensive job. Michael Savala, a policy director for the Department of Corrections, says three hundred full-time jobs are vacant right now because of budget cuts, and the prison guards who remain are stretched to the limit.Most of the state’s prisons have reduced visiting hours during the week, but Char Kisch of Des Moines says that just means a longer wait on the weekends. Kisch’s husband, Michael, who’s serving a 55-year sentence at the Newton prison. She says her family if from Missouri and it’s difficult to drive up for the visits. She moved to Des Moines two years ago to be closer.Kisch and others are also angered by new rules that would limit who can visit prisoners. Only immediate family and two friends would be able to visit — no grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews. Opponents of the move say 90 percent of inmates are eventually released and studies show retaining family ties during incarceration reduces the risk inmates will commit another crime once they’re on the outside.
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