More correctional officers in Iowa prisons are claiming they’re understaffed and being placed at risk. Workers at the Anamosa State Penitentiary are rallying for more hired help. The Anamosa prison has lost nearly 90 correctional officers over the past decade, while the statewide prison population has increased 15-percent.
Anamosa State Penitentiary Correctional Officer Mark Baker says, over the past 23 years, he’s seen his fair share of changes on the job.
“Just crowded everybody together, tempers flare more, less room for advancements, less jobs for inmates, less staff…they just keep cutting our budget,” Baker said.
Last week, guards found two homemade knives in the prison recreational yard. “You used to see six or seven officers in the yard on any given day when there would be a thousand inmates there. Now you see one if you’re lucky,” Baker said.
Governor Branstad said Monday he’s done his best to “clean up the mess” the Culver administration left behind. Former Governor Culver cut funding to the Corrections Department as part of an across-the-board budget cut shortly before he left office.
Branstad approved an additional $25-million to the Corrections Department budget last year. “I think Corrections has been treated very fairly,” Branstad said. Much of that money was used for staff pay raises, but AFSCME Iowa Council President Danny Homan says there should be money to hire more officers.
“Our pay raises did not cost $25-million. The Iowa legislature, signed by the governor, appropriated for 20 new officers for this institution. We have not one hire yet,” Homan said. He wants an investigation into what he says is a misappropriation of state funds.
Homan says prison staff, the inmates and the public’s safety are all at risk. Prison workers at the State Penitentiary in Fort Madison also held a rally to protest staffing shortages earlier this month.
By Nadia Crow, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids