Training academy for new prison employees revived
Beth Skinner (Iowa Press-Iowa PBS)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Corrections has revived a training academy for new employees of the state prison system.

Agency director Beth Skinner says the training lasts between one and four weeks, depending on the job.  “It’s more centralized and there’s fidelity to the work,” Skinner says, “so our staff get the training they need so they can be as safe as they can be.”

Skinner says this is among several steps the agency has taken after two employees at the Anamosa State Penitentiary were murdered in March of 2021 by inmates attempting an escape. The two inmates tried to use a grinder to cut through metal bars on a window and investigators say they used hammers to attack the prison guard and nurse who intervened.

There are new rules for the control of tools used in prison apprenticeship programs and a new system for evaluating which prisoners may participate.  “Anyone that’s going to carry a tool has to be run through that assessment and some people are not able to carry tools,” Skinner says. “We did move some of our Iowa Prison Industry programs out of Anamosa. We’ve put those into our more medium and minimum security facilities, so we’ve changed operations quite a bit after the tragic murders of Bob and Lorena.”

The two inmates who killed Robert McFarland and Lorena Schulte both pleaded guilty to the murders and were transferred to prisons in Nebraska and Missouri. Each was sentenced to spent their rest of their life in prison.