SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Following the deaths of two Anamosa State Penitentiary workers, Iowa Democratic leaders are calling for more funding to help staff and upgrade corrections facilities.
Nurse Lorena Schulte and corrections officer Robert McFarland were killed during an attempted escape. Lawmakers toured the prison Friday seeing firsthand what the facility needs in order to prevent similar tragic events.
“I am besides myself when I go into a cell block that has 300 offenders in it and two prison guards. I’m besides myself with that. That has to change,” said Rep. Marti Anderson.
The lawmakers say that was one of the first things they noticed was inmates outnumbering staff.
They said employees tell them they’re working a lot of overtime to help cover open shifts. The group also said technology needs a major upgrade, including the radio system and cameras.
House Republicans proposed a $21 million dollar budget increase, but democrats on Friday say $34 million would need to be the minimum.
State Sen. Zach Wahls also took aim at the state’s claim that the Department of Corrections only has around a dozen unfilled positions. He says vacant positions that are open for some time, are scrubbed from the system and more than 260 need to be filled.
“These decisions have consequences correction officers and the people that make these penitentiaries work they are your families, your friends, they are your neighbors, and they are public safety workers. They are keeping this state safe and the decision to underfund this system has had deadly consequences in the state of Iowa,” said Wahls.
The lawmakers said the plan is to visit all DOC prisons.