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Staffer at Anamosa State Penitentiary assaulted by inmate on Saturday morning

Published: Apr. 24, 2021 at 12:38 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - A correctional officer was assaulted at Anamosa State Penitentiary on Saturday morning.

According to the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC), at approximately 7:22 A.M., the officer was handing out medications to inmates on a cellblock when an inmate unexpectedly put her in a chokehold.

According to the Iowa DOC, the officer was able to use defensive techniques until additional staff in the area were able to respond and assist in taking control of the inmate.

But according to AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan, workers at the prison say another inmate stepped in to aid the officer until other correctional officers could arrive on the scene.

The officer was taken to a local hospital and was released, only suffering bruising from the assault. The inmate was not seriously injured, authorities say.

The incident remains under investigation.

This assault comes one day after Iowa Democratic lawmakers toured the prison over concerns about the conditions of the prison, the safety of prison staff and funding, and more than a month after a botched escape attempt at the prison left two staff members dead.

After touring the prison on Friday, State Representative Mari Anderson said she was appalled by the number of times she saw two employees watching more than a hundred inmates.

In his statement, Homan wrote:

Just one month after two Iowans lost their lives at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, we have another example of the short staffing in our prisons. I am grateful that this officer is safe, but I shudder to think what would have happened if this inmate hadn’t stepped in to help. How many more examples do we need of the unsafe environment in our prisons? Republican lawmakers and the Governor need to wake up and recognize that we must not only fully staff the positions currently vacant at the Department of Corrections, but increase the number of officers and staff in our prisons. That is the only way to ensure the safety of those who work in the facilities. They must act now to ensure this never happens again.

“They [prison staff] got there as fast as they could,” Homan told KCRG-TV9 in an interview on Saturday. “This is not saying anybody did anything wrong. This is saying we don’t have enough staff inside our institutions.”

In the wake of the deadly attack at Anamosa in March, TV9′s i9 Investigative Unit learned that the prison was overcapacity and that over the last eight years, a large funding disparity has grown between the state budget, the DOC, and the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

In the days after the Anamosa attack, multiple violent incidents involving inmates at other Iowa prisons were reported.

On April 6th, Warden Randy Gibbs was assigned as the interim warden of Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Earlier this month, TV9 learned that Anamosa State Penitentiary had received a citation from Iowa OSHA, warning in August 2020 that radio malfunctions left staff without a reliable way to contact other employees for help during an emergency, among other violations, and issuing a $20,007 fine for safety violations against the Iowa DOC.

Cord Overton, spokesperson for the DOC, said the department is appealing the violations.

Additionally, AFSCME Council 61, the union that represents most employees in the Department of Corrections, said the DOC denied state inspectors access to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) in Coralville and filed a complaint in March with Iowa OSHA over the training, equipment and the safety of workers. In August 2018, the IMCC received a $9,472 fine related to issues where employees didn’t have a reliable means for emergency communication during a violent attack.

TV9′s i9 Investigative Unit also discovered that Iowa DOC tried to push legislation that would stop inspections from happening inside its prisons. The legislation would have increased the threshold for an Iowa OSHA inspection to occur when an attack happened inside a prison and require OSHA to have another reason to investigate rather than just a prison attack.

But Overton said he pulled the bill because the DOC wanted to finish the appeal process before proposing new legislation, which would be finished around June 2021. The DOC said they believe the investigation from OSHA is flawed because the conditions it cites were not tested by the inspectors and prisons can’t comply with some of the recommendations.

The DOC did recently confirm that six out-of-state security experts are investigating the murder of two prison workers in Anamosa and are working to review the incident, conditions of the facility, and security policies and procedures.

According to the Iowa DOC, several prison staff members have been assaulted throughout the past few years, with 10 assaults in 2017, 7 assaults in 2018 and 2019, and 13 assaults in 2020.

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