The escape of two prisoners from the state’s only maximum security prison has cost the prison warden his job. Governor Tom Vilsack announced today he has reassigned warden Ken Burger from the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.
Vilsack says Burger “has served the state for an extended period of time. He’ll be reassigned for a short period of time, and then he’ll retire.” The two prisoners were serving time for murder and attempted murder when they used a homemade rope to scale the prison wall.
Vilsack says other prison employees are being punished along with the warden. He says, “There’ll also going to be several senior supervisory senior personnel that will no longer be in their jobs at the penitentiary, uh, they will be reassigned to other locations. There will be several front-line workers who’ll be reprimanded. And, uh, an individual who was with prison industries who is responsible for counting inmates and for ensuring that he was on the floor during the prison industries shift and wasn’t, is no longer working at the Iowa State Penitentiary.”
The governor says he’s directed the Department of Corrections to retrain workers in security procedures and to increase the frequency of shakedowns and searches. Vilsack says he’s also asked the Board of Corrections to study whether or not a new maximum security prison should be built to replace the one in Fort Madison.
Vilsack says the prison has been open since 1839 — before Iowa became a state — and he says it’s time to ask the question whether the state should build a more secure facility. Vilsack says it would cost taxpayers about 40-million dollars to build a new prison, but says the state would save money annually in operating costs with a new, more efficient facility. The “Fort” was last renovated in 1982.