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New Iowa State Penitentiary Nearly Finished

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.

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

Natural light, construction crews and paint so new you can smell it in the air. The new Iowa State Penitentiary doesnt always look like a prison, and thats the idea.

They live here they're here 24 hours a day all the time. We know color effects people. Natural environment affects mood, said Executive Officer at the Iowa State Penitentiary Rebecca Bowker.

Prison official say offenders are sent to prison as punishment, not for it.

Once they're here, its our job as staff members to house them to feed them and provide them basic services. We're not here to punish them further, said Bowker.

The idea is if the inmates are around soothing colors, are comfortable and see light, they behave better. But it also makes for a much better place to work for the staff. Thats no mistake. They were asked what they wanted out of a new facility.

We just really asked them, hey what works and what doesn't work? said Bowker.

The result: better sightlines to keep an eye on inmates, easier movement and ultimately, a safer prison.

"Its tremendously beneficial to recruitment whether its from the public, law enforcement, military personnel that are coming in to show places like this, said Deputy Warden Mark Roberts. Roberts himself began to work at the Iowa State Penitentiary three years ago so that he could be involved in this project that will soon be completed.

The prison will host an open house on November 5th for local families to tour the prison before moving inmates in at some point in March of 2014.
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