The Iowa Board of Corrections members said during a committee meeting Tuesday they haven’t settled on a single recommendation on the future of the state penitentiary at Fort Madison. The board was expected to give its opinion this week to Governor Tom Vilsack on whether the territorial prison built in 1839 should be replaced or repaired. But instead they’ll provide the governor with a range of options. The prison became the focus of attention after two inmates escaped in November.
The Deputy Director of the Department of Corrections, John Baldwin , says they’re considering keeping the prison the same, fixing it up, or closing it down and building a new maximum-security prison somewhere in the state. He says they’re also reviewing the “systemic issues that are part of corrections,” whether the facility has the right inventory of beds, are they efficiently used, and so forth.
Baldwin says the first recommendation would be leaving the old prison as it is,
tear it down and build something new would be another, and number-three would be doing an inventory of the whole system to see what the needs are.
Baldwin says the cost of repairing the Fort Madison penitentiary would be somewhere between two and 20-million dollars, the estimated cost of building a new maximum security prison is somewhere around 80-million dollars. “All these figures could change by who knows what,” Baldwin says. “We’re just moving through the process.” Baldwin says with more time, the board could come up with more specific recommendations, but wants the governor and lawmakers to make the decision.