Iowa Officials: Prison Worker Smuggled Items to Prisoners

An exterior view of the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison on Thursday, March 31, 2011. (Matt Nelson/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Adam Carros

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Prison officials say a staffer smuggled contraband into the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, prompting a lockdown.

Fred Scaletta, executive officer for the Iowa Department of Corrections, says in a statement Thursday that the security breech is under investigation and the staffer is on administrative leave.

The penitentiary's maximum security unit has been on lockdown since March 12. The unit holds about 560 prisoners, many serving life sentences for rape and murder.

Union president Danny Homan says Thursday the prison is understaffed and dangerous. Homan represents correctional officers in Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Prison officials responded by saying they have worked to reduce the prison population and improve the ratio of guards to inmates.

Here is the full statement from the Iowa Department of Corrections:

The Iowa State Penitentiary is in a restricted movement status because of contraband brought into the maximum security prison by a line staff member. Dedicated and professional correctional staff, at all levels, have been shaking down the prison to account for the inappropriate items that have been brought into the prison. An investigation into this matter is currently being conducted. The employee is on administrative leave.

The Iowa Department of Corrections, in conjunction with the Iowa Board of Parole have worked tirelessly to safely reduce Iowa’s prison population. This had led to the lowest prison population since 2002 which has resulted in better staff to offender ratios. The Governor’s past two budgets and his recommendations for FY14 and FY15 provide predictability and stability for the Department. This is in direct contrast to several years of dramatic decreases in funding for Corrections staff.

The Department of Corrections continues to segregate offenders based on the severity of the offense, evidence based practices and the decisions of Administrative Law Judges.

The closing of the Clinical Care Unit will provide for movement of some mentally ill offenders to Oakdale to allow for closer treatment opportunities to the State’s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital and the care provide to offenders by the University of Iowa. Other mentally ill offenders are being moved to Clarinda to take advantage of vacant prison space which will allow for better treatment opportunities. Additionally, the opening of the new 800 bed maximum security prison at Fort Madison will require substantial training on new security features, new offender supervision techniques and the new offender level system recently implemented across the 9 prisons.

Staff and offender safety remain, as always, the top priority of the Governor, the Legislature and the Department.

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