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Iowa DOC: Budget Cuts Lead to Suspending Minimum Security Unit in Fort Madison

Feb 9, 2017

The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison is not commenting on the "suspension of services" at its minimum security facility and what it could mean for staffing at the facility.

Iowa Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff announced Wednesday afternoon that his agency plans to trim $5.5 million from its current budget. He said services will be suspended at four locations.

  • John Bennett Unit (Fort Madison)
  • Luster Heights Camp (Harper’s Ferry)
  • Lodge Unit (Clarinda)
  • Residential Treatment Services (Sheldon; community-based corrections)

“The Department of Corrections understands the fiscally challenging position that the state is in, and thanks the Governor, Lt. Governor, and legislature for enacting budget adjustments that allow the Department to strategically streamline services,” said Bartruff in a prepared statement.

“The department has been studying the best way to implement these adjustments for weeks. We’ve worked collaboratively with all institutions and community-based corrections districts to identify the most strategic way to implement these changes. The actions that we are taking meet the high expectation of safety in our facilities, while also ensuring that the Department does not have to close any of our institutions. While change is rarely easy, the Department of Corrections will make the necessary reallocation of resources to ensure the highest level of safety for the public, the staff, and the offenders under our supervision.”

Bartruff said the suspension of services will allow for a total staff reduction of 3%. He said many of those affected will have an opportunity to transfer to another unit or institution within the DOC.

The John Bennett Unit houses up to 200 minimum security inmates in Fort Madison at what was previously known as the Clinical Care Unit. That facility is attached to the former prison near the Mississippi River.

Some of the inmates housed there perform work duties in Fort Madison and Keokuk such as landscaping and mowing grass.

A spokeswoman for the Iowa State Penitentiary would not comment on where the minimum security inmates might go, how many employees might be laid off, and if the suspension of services could be permanent.

Danny Homan, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President, said in a statement Thursday that it’s a scary time for correctional employees in Iowa.

“The Iowa Department of Corrections informed us that they would be laying off a number of probationary Correctional Officers, though it is unclear exactly how many that will be,” said Homan. “Eight officers from Fort Madison and nine officers from the Iowa State Penitentiary have already been terminated, but I fear there may be many more. DOC also announced plans to close down the Luster Heights Camp at Harper’s Ferry, the Lodge at Clarinda, the John Bennett Unit at Fort Madison, and the Residential Treatment Services at the Sheldon Community Based Corrections facility. Contrary to the Department’s statement, this was not done collaboratively; it was an arbitrary announcement. AFSCME wasn’t notified of these actions until after they were put in place.”