Congresswoman Cindy Axne and Democrats in the Iowa legislature are calling for a federal investigation of the murders of two employees at the state prison in Anamosa.
Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls and other Democratic lawmakers toured the facility and met with the prison’s acting warden today.
“Over and over and over we were shown areas of the prison where you had a huge potential number of inmates just vastly outnumbering the number of staff who were there in any individual area,” Wahls said during a news conference outside the prison.
Wahls said it’s critical for the legislature to provide enough money to hire more staff and upgrade security cameras and the radio communications system within the prison. Representative Eric Gjerde of Cedar Rapids, an assistant House Democratic Leader, said it’s time for “real change” in the prison system.
“What I heard today from the workers and the staff and what I saw is a problem,” Gjerde said. “…It’s time that the State of Iowa is accountable to the folks that work at this facility and right now, we’re not.”
Another Democratic legislator said one cell block with 300 inmates was staffed by two prison guards today. The top Republican in the Iowa House has accused Democrats of politicizing the situation in Anamosa, where two employees were beaten to death with hammers. Two inmates have been charged with their murders.
House Speaker Pat Grassley said there’s already an internal investigation underway to examine issues that may have led to the attack and Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has said an external investigation will be done.
The leader of the union that represents prison employees joined the four Democratic lawmakers at today’s news conference outside the Anamosa State Penitentiary. The group again called for the restoration of collective bargaining rights for state employees, arguing it would allow prison employees to raise important security issues during contract negotiations.
Republican Congresswoman Ashley Hinson was asked today if there is a need for a federal investigation at Anamosa and said,” I don’t know if a federal investigation is necessary. I know that our state officials are asking questions and looking into this as well.”