State Worries Corrections Layoffs Will Lead to Insecurity

By Matthew Harwood

Budgetary woes in Iowa could lead to 515 layoffs throughout the state's corrections system, jeopardizing the safety of its officers and inmates, according to the Des Moines Register.

“A reduced work force will create serious safety concerns for the public, staff and offenders within the maximum-security facility,” explained a budget statement from officials at the maximum-security Iowa State Penitentiary, the paper reports. Of considerable concern to officials is cell searches, which they say will fall below "acceptable levels" if layoffs occur as planned. 

At the Anamosa State Penitentiary, loss of prison staff could result in housing changes that create overcrowded cell blocks.

Overcrowding, according to a 2005 study by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, can lead to an increase in serious inmate-on-inmate violence. "The results demonstrate through sound empirical research that there is a direct, statistically significant relationship between resources (bed space and staffing) and institution safety," Harry G. Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), told Congress this summer.

The proposed layoffs would ripple through the state's corrections department, affecting both prison guards, probation officers, and other staff that administer community corrections programs. The Iowa Department of Corrections normally manages 4,200 employees that oversee 8,400 inmates and 30,000 prior offenders in the state.

Corrections Director John Baldwin told reporters that he will try different strategies to reduce layoffs. One possible solution is shifting spending for support services to another budget year.

But even that raises problems. State and federal court requirements mean prisons must guarantee a certain amount of care, like keeping overcrowding down and providing healthcare.

♦ Photo of Anamosa State Penitentiary by J Stephen Conn/Flickr



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