The budget-cutting plan Governor Branstad signed into law this week slashes the money provided to Iowa’s prison system this fiscal year by $5.5 million dollars.

Iowa Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff says he’s hoping to finalize a response plan over the next 7 to 10 days. “At this point, we’ve been managing our budget by not filling vacancies and cutting back on travel and training,” Bartruff says. There are currently around 100 vacancies within the agency that are not being filled, according to Bartruff.

Up to 80 percent of the corrections department budget is directed at salaries. Given the size of the budget cut, furloughs are likely, but Bartruff isn’t ready to say how many workers could be let go. “I’m not able to disclose that at this point because we have ongoing vacancies that are created, so the more vacancies we can keep open the less we need to go into the reduction enforce arena,” Bartruff says. “So, we’re monitoring that very closely and see what we can do with belt-tightening and not filling vacancies to see how close we can get there before we have to look at staff reductions.”

There are roughly 3,700 employees in the Iowa Department of Corrections. Iowa has nine prisons — housing over 8,000 inmates — located in Anamosa, Coralville, Mount Pleasant, Fort Madison, Newton, Mitchellville, Fort Dodge, Rockwell City, and Clarinda. The governor on Wednesday approved legislation that cuts $88 million from the current year’s state budget to deal with lower-than-expected state tax revenue.