Anamosa community reflects on one year since tragic penitentiary attack

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 6:09 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - One year after two Anamosa State Penitentiary workers were killed by two inmates, the town is still processing the loss.

Residents like Robyn Eilers remember hearing the news.

“It’s one of those things that I think will always still be there, you know? You’re never going to forget,” said resident Robyn Eilers.

She says she remembers hearing the news.

“Your first thought is disbelief, your first thought is, ‘Really? No, that can’t be happening. And then your second thought is, ‘Oh my God, is it somebody that I know,” said Eilers.

She didn’t know either of the victims personally. But in a small town like Anamosa, everyone reacted as if they did.

“It affected the whole entire town because everybody knows somebody that works there that it affected,” said Eilers.

As a former Anamosa State Penitentiary nurse, she supports both the Robert McFarland Act and Lorena Schulte Act. They are bills family members of the victims are pushing that would let unions for prison workers negotiate like police unions can.

“Health and safety of the employees of these institutions are the utmost priority and it’s just not moving fast enough, it needs to be taken care of soon,” said American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 President, Rick Eilander.

Both bills failed to pass legislative funnels but could be tacked on to spending bills later in the session.

As the town of Anamosa remembers what happened a year ago, they say changing state law would allow some light out of something so dark.

“You want to make sure that they do whatever they can to make sure that something like that never happens again,” said Eilers.

Both the Robert McFarland Act and Lorena Schulte Act would also increase penalties for assaults on prison workers, require upgrades to prison surveillance and safety equipment and training.

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