Republicans in the Iowa House have approved a budget that provides a more than $7 million spending boost to the state prison system.
Representative Gary Worthan, a Republican from Storm Lake, led development of the budget plan. “(It) will allow them to keep hiring,” Worthan said. “They’re facing the same challenges that everybody is, trying to find qualified employees to hire.”
Representative Todd Prichard, a Democrat from Charles City, noted that a year ago today, two employees at the state prison in Anamosa were murdered by two inmates attempting to escape.
“After time passes and we think that we solved the problem by just, in my mind, throwing some money at it — which, I’ll admit it was needed, it was part of the issue — we move on,” Prichard said.
Prichard unsuccessfully tried to attach policy to the budget that would have increased the penalty for attacking a prison employee and let prison workers bring up safety-related topics in contract negotiations.
“I’ve spent a lot of time visiting and talking to people who work in the prisons and correctional institutions and wanted to do something meaningful for the two individuals that were murdered and their families,” Prichard said.
Prichard’s proposal was tabled on procedural grounds. The budget plan for the state’s entire justice system was approved with the support of all but two House Republicans. It provides a nearly $13 million increase over the current year’s budget for prisons and the parole board as well as the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Public Safety, the Iowa National Guard, and the Department of Homeland and Emergency Management.