The director of Iowa’s prison system says the inmate work program that two prisoners escaped from last month may reopen next month. The Prison Industries program at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison was shut down after two inmates used materials from the worksite to escape over the prison’s wall. But Iowa Department of Corrections director Gary Maynard says the workshop at the maximum security prison may reopen within 30 days.

Maynard says they still need to have work programs at the penitentiary because of the number of inmates and he says work helps the institution run better and is part of rehabilitation.Maynard was at the statehouse yesterday (Thursday), testifying before the Legislative Oversight Committee. Maynard and other prison staff briefed lawmakers on the new security measures. At issue is not only last month’s prison escape but a rape that occurred last May at the state-run institution for mentally-retarded patients in Woodward.

Maynard says while the break-out and the rape were serious, the state should not abandon inmate work programs. He says 98-percent of all inmates come back to the community at some point, and he says they have an obligation to do all they can to change the behavior of inmates. He says they try to give them some skills and show them how to work with supervision. Maynard says the inmate work program at Woodward has been canceled, but new search and supervision proceedures at Fort Madison should allow the program there to re-open soon.

Republican Representative Clel Baudler of Greenfield, a retired state trooper, says he’s comfortable with the steps the department has taken. Baudler says, “The two incidents, the rape and the escape, I think it will change the mindset of everyone involved in prisoner security, and consequently make Iowans more secure. To keep the bad guys in and under control.”

However, Baudler says he doesn’t think inmates like the ones who escaped recently, should be allowed in any prison work program. He says he absolutely believes work is good, but says he doesn’t believe a “lifer” should be on a work detail. One of the inmates who escaped Fort Madison was serving a life term for murdering another man.