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Union leaders warn Iowa's prison crisis persists two years after Anamosa killings

Anamosa State Penitentiary. (Photo by Iowa's News Now)
Anamosa State Penitentiary. (Photo by Iowa's News Now)
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Thursday marks two years since a nurse and correction officer were killed after two inmates tried to escape from the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Now, two years after the killings of nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert MacFarland, union leaders are still warning about the persistent crisis in Iowa's prisons.

AFSCME Council 61 President Rick Eilander issued a statement in remembrance of the tragic loss Thursday, calling on Governor Kim Reynolds to take immediate action:

We carry their families in our thoughts and in our hearts.
In their memory we renew our call upon Governor Reynolds to prioritize the safety of our employees and the public.
There is a crisis in our correctional system that must be addressed.
The crisis causes an environment where these tragedies are creating unsafe conditions in our correctional facilities statewide. It is unsafe for the employees charged with keeping our communities safe. It is unsafe for the inmates in these facilities, and ultimately a crisis in corrections which means a less safe Iowa for all.
Why is there a crisis in corrections in our state? This crisis has continued over many years, and has become far worse during Kim Reynolds’ time as Governor. This crisis has been created by a complete failure of our state’s politicians to make public employees’ safety a priority.
Our rights and voices as public employees continue to be attacked. Information about dangerous incidents or other safety issues are not always provided to us completely or in a timely manner. Transparency from administration is key to ensuring that our correctional facilities are kept safe for all.
The state has eliminated entire positions instead of hiring the necessary staff to maintain safety in correctional facilities. As a result correctional staff are stretched thin, working overtime, or constantly fatigued.
The reorganization of state government to give Governor Reynolds more power and control will do nothing to alleviate the crisis she and her administration have only made worse.
We need the Governor to take immediate action, and will be delivering a letter detailing the executive authority she could use to start toward a solution.
The bottom line is that safety matters in these facilities. For correctional officers. For inmates. For our communities. The dedicated people who make our correctional facilities work deserve every bit of support we can offer. No family should be forced to worry whether their loved one will return home.
Two years after the tragic loss of life in Anamosa, we call for a moment of silence at 3:23 p.m. today. After that moment of silence we call for a moment of action. Governor Reynolds must take action or be held responsible for the next tragedy that will occur because of this crisis in corrections. If the Governor does not act, we call upon every Iowan to contact her and demand an end to the crisis in corrections.
Contact the Governor at 515-281-5211 and tell her public employee safety matters!

An amended lawsuit filed earlier this week claims Anamosa prison officials, including the former warden Jeremy Larson, had been warned employees were at risk before the March 23, 2021 killings.

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Thomas Woodard and Michael Dutcher both pleaded guilty and are serving life sentences in prison.

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