Iowa officials likely won't reopen shuttered prisons - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa officials likely won't reopen shuttered prisons

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Iowa prison officials don't plan to reopen four prison facilities with room for hundreds of inmates that had been temporarily closed because of budget cuts.

The three satellite prison units in Harpers Ferry, Clarinda and Fort Madison as well as a community corrections facility in Sheldon won't be considered for reopening in the state Department of Corrections' 2018 budget request to the Legislature, The Des Moines Register reported .

Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff ordered the closures in February to comply with a $5.5 million budget reduction.

The Luster Heights prison camp near Harpers Ferry has been returned to its owner, the state Department of Natural Resources, said Iowa prison spokesman Cord Overton.

DNR spokesman Alex Murphy said the department's parks bureau is evaluating the Luster Heights facilities to see if repairs are needed and if future use could be an option.

Overton said staff at all the locations were offered positions elsewhere in the department.

The decision not to reopen was likely because of budget issues and a decrease in inmates in the prison system, said State Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point.

Iowa's prisons had more than 8,300 inmates on Sept. 12, down from nearly 8,800 inmates six years ago. However, the institutions are still currently considered to be 14 percent overcrowded.

Marty Ryan, a lobbyist for the Justice Reform Consortium, a prison advocacy group, said he's disappointed in the decision not to reopen the facilities, which were intended to rehabilitate inmates and ease their re-entry into the community.

"It looks like we are moving closer to just warehousing people," Ryan said.

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