Agency suspends Iowa prison guard over positive news article

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Corrections has suspended a prison guard for giving an interview to his hometown newspaper for a positive feature story about his life and work.

The Bloomfield Democrat, a weekly paper in southern Iowa, featured John Cox in a front-page story about how he inspires and teaches inmates at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility.

The newspaper publisher, Karen Spurgeon, had taught Cox music in his youth and was impressed by his passion for prison work after bumping into him in December. Cox agreed to an interview.

Prison leaders put Cox under investigation after the article was published, saying he violated work rules that require prior authorization for media interviews. Ultimately, they gave him a three-day suspension.

Cox and his union are appealing, arguing the discipline is an infringement on his free speech.