Dept. of Corrections, union at odds over prison security breach - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dept. of Corrections, union at odds over prison security breach

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FT. MADISON (KWWL) -

A security situation at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison has the Iowa Department of Corrections and AFSCME Iowa Council 61 at odds with each other.

The maximum security unit of the prison has been under lock down since last week due to a security breach, according to Fred Scaletta, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Corrections.

That means all 560 inmates in that unit are confined to their cells.

In a release issued Thursday, Scaletta said the "restricted movement" status was necessary because a "line staff member" brought contraband into the unit.

"Dedicated and professional correctional staff, at all levels, have been shaking down the prison to account for the inappropriate items that have been brought into the prison," Scaletta said in a written statement Thursday. "An investigation into this matter is currently being conducted. The employee is on administrative leave."

Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Iowa Council 61 -- the union that represents corrections staff -- said he has a different take on the situation. 

"The security situation at ISP has reached a critical juncture," Homan said in a written statement. "The security and safety of staff and inmates is being completely compromised by the severe staffing shortage and Director Baldwin's decision to reduce the inmate population in a way that imperils staff, inmates and the public."

Homan went on to accuse the Iowa State Penitentiary of not following long-standing inmate segregation procedures and not fully locking down or shaking down the facility when contraband is found.

"The DOC needs to stop implementing its unofficial 'hear no evil, see no evil' security policy," Homan added. "While that policy might sound good in the Director's Office, it will lead to disastrous consequences in our correctional institutions."

Scaletta said budget recommendations from Gov. Terry Branstad for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 will provide predictability and stability for the department, which is the exact opposite of the cuts they have seen over the last several years.

Scaletta added that substantial training on new security features, new offender supervision techniques and a new offender-level system will be required when the new, 800-bed maximum security prison opens in Fort Madison.

According to Scaletta, the current lock down does not impact inmates in the medium security or clinical units at the prison.

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