Todd Pritchard. (photo from IA Legislature)

Republican legislators have sent the governor a budget plan for the Iowa’s justice system and it includes a $7 million spending increase for the state’s prisons.

Democrats like Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City say the murders of two Anamosa prison employees by two inmates attempting an escape last year should have prompted a higher amount, to address on-going staff shortages.

“You’re playing with people’s lives, the lives of our correctional officers, the lives of inmates — who are people, too — and the lives of Iowans,” Prichard said during House debate.

Republican Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said lawmakers immediately provided the prison system $20 million last year,

“They couldn’t hire enough people to use up that $20 million. That’s the nature of the labor market at this point in time,” Worthan said. “This budget will support staff, it will support adding staff. While maybe it’s not optimal, it probably represents as many people as the Department of Corrections can hire and train at this point in time.”

The director of the Department of Corrections recently hired a recruiting director and plans to set up a booth at the State Fair as a way to spread the word in person about job openings. At the end of April, there were more than 200 job openings for correctional officers.