The director of Iowa’s prison system told the Board of Corrections today that architects have started drafting construction documents for a new state penitentiary in Fort Madison. John Baldwin says a groundbreaking ceremony is being planned for the third week in April.
“We hope to get the footings in for the buildings during the summer and hopefully we’ll see stuff going up before the winter snow flies,” Baldwin said. The new maximum security institution, used to house violent and repeat male prisoners, is expected to open in 2014. At that time, the current facility will be 175 years old.
The state is borrowing roughly $200 million to replace the State Penitentiary and pay for other projects. Baldwin was asked if the state’s budget concerns might prompt lawmakers to cancel plans for the new prison.
“They really can’t because the state bonded that prison and…they’re not going to put the state’s tax exempt status at risk,” Baldwin said. “They are desperate, but I would be surprised if they went down that particular path.” The push for a new maximum security institution picked up steam in 2005 after two inmates escaped the facility by scaling a wall. The escapees were captured a few days later.