KDSN RADIO News
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
House GOP proposes $20M more for state prison system; union leader says it's not enough
(Radio Iowa) - House Republicans are proposing a $20 million increase in the budget for the Iowa Department of Corrections. The president of the union that represents prison employees says it's not enough to ensure staffing levels inside the state's prison system are adequate. Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake leads the subcommittee that developed the House G-O-P plan.
"We support those people that are guarding our institutions and taking of the offenders and standing that if you want to call it a thin blue line or a thin brown line that stands between us and anarchy," Worthan says.
Republicans are not directly citing last month's escape attempt and murders of two staff members at the state prison in Anamosa as the reason for the proposed spending increase. Worthan says it's the culmination of a decade of examination of the budget for the Department of Corrections and other agencies in the justice system, like the Department of Public Safety.
"We're trying to bulk them back up, improve staff numbers and so on there," Worthan says.
AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan (HOH-man) says the extra money merely covers negotiated salary increases over the past couple of years and doesn't fill nearly 250 vacant positions in the prison system.
"Republicans, it's time to step up to the plate," Homan says. "It's time to fund your facilities in this state. It's time to make it so that people feel safe."
Homan is calling for reopening a training program for prison staff and for an independent investigation of the murders at Anamosa.
"This attack should have never happened," Homan says. "It happened because for a minimum of 10-12 years, the Department of Corrections has been underfunded and in the wonderful bill that the Republicans in the House are running they are underfunding the Department of Corrections."
Homan says hundreds of new correctional officers are needed to provide security at the state's nine prison and at least 34 new correctional officers and nurses need to be hired immediately at Anamosa.
"The Republicans in the Iowa House don't really understand what happened two weeks ago," Homan says, "...because those were two brutal deaths."
Homan is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the safety situation inside the Anamosa prison. The union leader is also calling for the warden at the Anamosa prison to be fired.
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