Public Safety

Iowa prison officials confirm offenders involved in attacks on penitentiary staff have white supremacist links

Iowa State Penitentiary remains on lockdown as investigation continues

The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The Iowa Department of Corrections confirmed Friday two inmates involved in separate assaults on staff at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison have ties to white supremacist groups.

Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, which represents correctional officers, said earlier this week he had been told a Corrections Department database identified the offenders involved in two attacks as “confirmed Peckerwoods,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center identified in a 2014 report as affiliates of the Aryan Brotherhood.

Corrections officials addressed this claim Friday.

“So far there are no indications that the incident that occurred on Saturday is related to Wednesday’s assault,” the news release states. “However, both offenders have ties to groups affiliated with white supremacy.”

The DOC continues to investigate two assaults, one Oct. 14 and the other Wednesday morning.

DOC has described the Oct. 14 assault as an “incident involving a staff member” who later was treated for an apparent injury and released. The penitentiary’s Housing Unit Two was put on restrictive movement and visiting was suspended.

Wednesday, a staff member was beginning to escort Keith Piper, 33, serving time as a habitual offender, when Piper “struck the staff multiple times” with “two homemade weapons.” With help from other staff, the correctional officer was able to subdue Piper, according to the Corrections Department.

The officer, treated at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, has since been released and is recovering at home, the DOC reported Friday.

The Fort Madison lockdown continues as corrections officials search the facility and draft plans for modifying Housing Unit Two, where Wednesday’s attack occurred. Offenders can’t have visitors or use the phone system.


Prison officials also are evaluating staffing, the news release said. Officials from AFSCME have long said the penitentiary is understaffed, creating a dangerous work environment.

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