State policymakers have just begun to talk about building a new state prison, and there’s already bickering over where the facility should be built. After a prison break-out in November, Governor Tom Vilsack said the state should consider building a new maximum security prison in southeast Iowa. The current state prison is located in Fort Madison, near Vilsack’s home in Mount Pleasant, and a number of jobs would be lost if the prison is shut down.
But Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Clarion, which is in north-central Iowa, says there are other factors to consider. Iverson says a centrally-located prison would be a better idea to reduce the costs of transporting prisoners, rather than building a new prison “way on the east side” of the state. The Iowa Board of Corrections will issue its recommendation on the Fort Madison Penitentiary at the end of the month.
Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, says lawmakers should insist on competitive bidding. In the 1990s, the state built new prisons in Clarinda, Newton and Fort Dodge. Lamberti says it was a “fair and open” process which rated each location based on a variety of factors. Experts say the state would have to spend at least 50 million dollars to build a new, 800-bed prison.