DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Democratic leaders and the head of the union that represents the state’s corrections officers are calling for more support of the state’s corrections facilities.
This comes after two employees at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland, died after being attacked by inmates wielding hammers on March 23rd. Investigators say it happened while inmates Michael Dutcher and Thomas Woodard were attempting to escape. Dutcher and Woodard are facing first-degree murder charges in the case.
Rep. Todd Prichard and Sen. Zach Wahls joined AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan Tuesday morning for a news conference asking for legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds to make some policy changes regarding the state’s corrections system.
They include more funding for corrections positions, new training procedures in the Department of Corrections, and restoring collective bargaining rights.
At the news conference, Homan said, “Many of you out here have heard me say this. That if staffing inside the Department of Corrections or the state, in general, does not get better, someone is going to die. Two weeks ago unfortunately that prediction came true. It wasn’t one individual, it was two. Sons lost their father. A wife lost her husband. Parents lost their daughter. Brothers and sisters, sisters lost their sister. This attack should have never happened.”
As the Republican-controlled Iowa House works on a new budget, Homan said the employees’ deaths were due to understaffing. Homan said the state’s nine prisons are short about 600 correctional officers. He said a $20 million increase in funding for the Department of Corrections, which was supported by a House budget subcommittee on Tuesday, is not near enough.
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican, took issue with Homan’s comments.
“Over ten years, we have not increased the level of funding for public safety the way we did in this budget … Department of Corrections, the largest increase in ten years,” said Grassley.
Homan is also calling for an independent investigation into the incident at Anamosa State Penitentiary.