A small group of Iowa legislators are still working to keep one component of the soon-to-be former Iowa State Penitentiary open.
The Clinical Care Unit was built in Fort Madison about ten years ago to house inmates with special needs, in particular mental health issues.
The Department of Corrections plans to move some of the inmates from that facility to the new prison being built north of Fort Madison once it is completed in early 2014.
The rest of the CCU inmates would be transferred to other prisons.
The six lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad on March 6. In it, they ask the governor to change his mind and keep the CCU open.
State Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) says the state should not turn its back on the CCU after investing millions of dollars in it over the years.
"We don't see the need for splitting up the services between one, two, or three prisons across the state," says Rep. Kearns, "when that facility was just built ten years ago."
He says it's also important to keep the CCU-related jobs in Lee County.
"Unfortunately, we have a huge number of inmates who need mental health services and the number keeps rising, not decreasing," says Rep. Kearns, "We need to keep the CCU open to address the needs of the high number of inmates with mental illnesses."
The lawmakers said, in the letter, they would meet with the Governor at any time.
Kearns says if this doesn’t work, money could be added to the budget.
Lawmakers Signing the Letter
State Senator Tom Courtney (D-Burlington)
State Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant)
State Representative Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk)
State Representative Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant)
State Representative Dennis Cohoon (D-Burlington)
State Representative Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids)