Anamosa area lawmaker says changes at state prison make sense

ANAMOSA — The eastern Iowa lawmaker who represents the city of Anamosa says turning the state prison there into a medium security facility “makes sense.”

Late last Friday, state prison officials announced the most dangerous prisoners at the Anamosa State Penitentiary would be moved to the state’s maximum security prison in Fort Madison. Republican Representative Steven Bradley of Cascade says the prison in Anamosa needs more staff, too. Starting pay for correctional officers is about $20 an hour and he’d like to see it increase to $24 or $25 an hour.

“It would help with morale there,” Bradley says. “A lot of them are my friends.”

Bradley, who visited the prison in December, says the warden and staff are doing the best they can nearly two years after two inmates killed a prison nurse and a correctional officer.

“What a terrible circumstance that was,” he says. “You can never, ever get over that.”

Bradley, who is a dentist, is a member of the House panel that drafts the budget for the state prison system. Senator Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, serves on the Senate panel that oversees state spending on the justice system. Taylor says he’s concerned transferring prisoners and making the Anamosa prison a medium security facility won’t address staffing, morale and excessive overtime issues.

Taylor  says employee burn-out has to be addressed. “You hire staff, you offer them bonuses, but they’re not watching the back door. Staff are leaving,” Taylor says. “There’s an ice berg problem. There’s still a problem that could sink us, to use that metaphor.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections has not responded to requests for information about staffing levels or employee turnover at the prison in Anamosa. As of today, the  online report from the Department of Corrections shows there are 1083 inmates in the Anamosa State Penitentiary, with 171 of those inmates in medical segregation.