State employees who are members of the Iowa United Professionals union plan to conduct an informational picket outside the gates of Iowa prisons today. I-U-P has 169 members who work as counselors in the correctional facilities. Thirty-four of those workers are being laid off as part of state budget cuts. Iowa Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says the cuts will affect treatment programs throughout the prison system.
“Clearly, the impact is going to be felt hardest at (facilities in) Mount Pleasant, Anamosa, Fort Dodge and Fort Madison,” Baldwin said. The union, which also includes Department of Human Services social workers, did not agree to take unpaid days off – as some other unions did – to avoid layoffs. Baldwin told the Iowa Board of Corrections Friday that he is talking with prison wardens and staff about how the facilities will continue to provide counseling services.
“We will be crafting programs that we think give us a reasonable expectation of providing care to the offender population,” Baldwin said. The layoffs will likely lead to a backlog in treatment services for sex offenders and inmates with drug problems. Baldwin says each prison will devise its own plan.
“It impacts each institution differently depending on their mix of employees,” Baldwin said. “I am absolutely confident that we will come up with some defensible, viable type of program. But, there is no doubt there will be a reduction in counselors in the institution system.” The facility in Anamosa, for example, stands to lose half of its counselors. Baldwin says he remains “optimistic” that legislators will find a way to restore money to the corrections budget and eliminate the need for layoffs.