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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Department of Corrections on Dec. 20 released a summary of findings from a seven-month security review sparked by the March 23 murders of two employees at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
Offenders Michael Dutcher and Thomas Woodard both were convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for fatally striking correctional Officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte in the head with prison-issued hammers. The offenders took another employee hostage briefly and seriously wounded another inmate.
A brief summary of the reports was released to the public, but the full 134-page report by CGL Companies, of Florida, was not. The The Gazette asked some follow-up questions to learn more.
Q: There was no mention of Iowa prison facilities in the summary. Did the consultant make recommendations about the prison buildings?
A: “CGL did address each facility in their review,” Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Nick Crawford said in an email. “Per Iowa Code section 904.602 (10) I am unable to provide that information.”
That part of Iowa law he cited says records that “may jeopardize the secure operation of a correctional institution operation or program are confidential unless otherwise ordered by a court.”
Confidential records could include procedures on “inmate movement and control, staffing patterns and regulations, emergency plans, internal investigations, equipment use and security, building plans, operation, and security, security procedures for inmate, staff, and visits, daily operation records, and contraband and medicine control,” the law states.
Q: The Anamosa State Penitentiary, a medium/maximum security prison built in 1875, is the oldest working prison in the state. To what degree is the Corrections Department considering a replacement?
A: “IDOC is not considering a replacement for that facility at this time.”
Q: The review summary said understaffing is a security issue in Iowa’s prisons. The Iowa Legislature allocated an extra $20 million to the department last summer, but there still are staffing shortages, the report found. What are some new or unusual steps the department has taken this year to recruit employees?
A: “The IDOC is working towards filling a new statewide recruitment and retention position at central office. This position’s main focus will be to find and retain staff through innovative recruitment and retention techniques. Additionally, the department has been utilizing radio ads, social media ads, and billboard ads throughout the state to recruit new staff. The department has also attended job fairs and stayed in close contact with local colleges about opportunities for new graduates.”
Q: The report says Iowa’s prison system is 16 percent over capacity, which causes security risks. Did CGL make any recommendations for reducing the population?
A: “The IDOC continues to work with the Iowa Board of Parole to find safe and innovative solutions to the issues we face with overcrowding,” Crawford wrote.
Q: Why didn’t the state release the entire report to the public?
A: “The full report is 134 pages. That includes three appendices. Per Iowa Code section 904.602 (10) we are unable to provide a full copy of the report.”
While that section of Iowa law says records that may jeopardize prison security may be kept confidential, the Iowa Attorney General has said confidential information in records should be redacted from release and then the rest of the record should be released to the public.
Q: Does the Corrections Department have a timeline for implementing these changes? How will the agency follow up with the public?
A: “The IDOC is carefully analyzing the entirety of CGL’s review and is working towards addressing their recommendations as quickly as possible. We will provide updates as they become available.”
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