Construction continues on a $130 million maximum security prison in Fort Madison. Iowa State Penitentiary Warden Nick Ludwick says the facility should be fully operational by 2014. It’ll replace a prison originally established in 1839.
“The citizens of the State of Iowa have certainly got their money’s worth out of the Iowa State Penitentiary,” Ludwick said. The age of the current prison has been a factor in recent violent incidents involving inmates. Ludwick says guards will be able to keep a closer eye on prisoners in the new building.
“Every housing unit, virtually ever facet of every area of operation will be under surveillance,” Ludwick said. Iowa’s most dangerous criminals have been housed at the Iowa State Pen for more than 150 years.
Inmate Steven Wilburn has called the Iowa State Pen “home” for three decades. He’s one of nearly 250 people in the facility who’re serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Wilburn says the old prison has a leaky ceiling and can turn extremely cold.
“I feel like we’re living in a condemned building,” Wilburn said. “Everything in here is leaking and sometimes the heat works and sometimes it (doesn’t).” Much of the current prison will abandoned. Corrections officials have not decided yet what they’ll do with the space.
“This place is dynamic, this place is foreboding, this place is extremely interesting,” Ludwick said. “This place is a place that is time to be put to rest.” The Department of Corrections has already established a transition team to prepare inmates for the move into the new facility.
The new prison will offer 700 beds within the maximum security unit. It is an upgrade from the 550 beds offered in the current facility.
By Mark Carlson, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids