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Iowa Republicans propose new funding for Corrections Department after i9 Investigation; Union calls for independent investigation

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 11:45 AM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa House Republicans plan to propose more than $20 million in new funding for the Department of Corrections.

The increase, if approved, would be the largest increase to the department’s budget since 2012.

The potential boost in funding comes one week after our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found disparities between the state budget, Department of Corrections, and Anamosa State Penitentiary. State funding at the Anamosa State Penitentiary has grown by around 2.7%, even though the estimated total funds available for the state have grown by around 22.7%. The Department of Corrections budget over the same time period has increased around 9.3%.

Danny Homan, who is the President of AFSCME Council 61 and represents most of the employees in the Anamosa State Penitentiary, said the lack of funding is partially to blame for an inmate attack killing two staff members. He said that $20 million dollars in new funding for the department of corrections is not enough money because the funding boost wouldn’t hire more correctional officers.

“What they are proposing in the Iowa House is not adding one single correctional officer to the mix,” Homan said. “That’s to pay for salary adjustments for the last two years.”

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found staffing levels have declined for more than a decade. In 2009, the DOC employed 4,173 people. In 2020, it employed 3,443 people-approximately a 20% decrease. Experts told i9 fewer staff members and over-capacity prisons create dangerous situations.

Homan couldn’t say how much money the department would need to hire an efficient number of staff members. He also called for every position in the department of corrections to be filled and an independent investigation into the attack. Homan also said the governor’s office hasn’t reached out to the union since the attack.

Pat Garrett, who is a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office, didn’t deny that claim. But, agreed with the need for an independent investigation.

“Gov. Reynolds is committed to doing everything we can to ensure justice and accountability following the tragic killing of two state employees at the Anamosa State Penitentiary,” Garrett said. “She is working with the Department of Corrections to launch an outside investigation that will result in an objective and thorough review.”

Cord Overton, who is a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said the department also wants an independent investigation. He said the department wants an independent correctional security team to assess the attack and would be in addition to investigations by the department, the Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Overton said the department is grateful for the potential funding increase but understands this is not a final decision.

“We thank the House for their support of the department and its mission,” Overton said. “The department will reserve comment on the possible impacts of any budget proposal as the legislature discusses and reaches a final decision on our appropriations.”

Until that final decision is made, Overton said the department plans to make multiple changes soon to make prisons safer for employees. Those include creating a “Director of Prison Security” focused on assessing and improving the security of the prisons, assess and make investments in additional fixed-camera, body-worn camera, and IT-related security measures.

Overton said the department also plans to add additional tool-control measures both for work crews and workshops, add training opportunities, and conduct feedback forums at every prison in order for staff to voice their concerns.

He said the department head also plans to order an immediate halt to all work programs and inmate labor related to tool control, and for security directors and deputy wardens to complete an assessment on the procedures around these programs that involve tool control with a brief submitted to the central office within a week.

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