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New Prison Replaces Outdated Penitentiary

FORT MADISON, IA (CBS2/FOX28) The oldest operating penitentiary west of the Mississippi River is about to become the nation's newest. When you walk inside the fence, it might not be what you might expect in maximum security lock up.

"It's definitely a prison. This isn't the Holiday Inn, It's definitely a prison, said Warden Nick Ludwick.

But nearly every space has natural light and soothing colors on the wall. Prison officials say thats a result of the way modern-day prisons are built.

"Its a drastic, drastic departure from where our guys are currently housed. Its lifts your mood it lifts your spirit, said Ludwick.

But its no secret that this new space is here because the old one just couldnt work anymore. That was highlighted in 2005 when two convicted murderers escaped unnoticed.

"I would say that was the tipping point. It showed a flaw in the system, said Deputy Warden Mark Roberts.

"That served as the catalyst for the agency to recognize that they needed to upgrade and augment the existing facility, said Ludwick.

But the old prison building couldnt cut it.

"They determined that it was more cost effective to the taxpayers to build a new facility that to try and fix and retrofit a facility that is over 170 years old, said Executive Officer at the Iowa State Penitentiary Rebecca Bowker.

Officials say the new space is a chance to be frank about the failures of the past and push forward.

"Everything's shiny Its a fresh start we get a chance to say we recognize this is going wrong, said Roberts.

The prison will host an open house for local families on November 5th before relocating inmates to the new space in March of 2014.
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