Pubdate: Fri, 02 Dec 2005
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Iowan
Author: Emileigh Barnes


Inmate fights and health issues are two problems that could worsen as 
the overflow in Iowa prisons continues to rise over the next decade.

Already overcrowded prisons will experience even more growth in 
inmate populations, pushing overflow up to 23.3 percent - or 1,688 
inmates - by June 2006, according to the Iowa Criminal Justice and 
Juvenile Planning.

This excess will rattle through both male and female cells, causing a 
predicted overpopulation of 36.8 percent in female inmates and 22.2 
percent male inmates.

And with time, the numbers are only expected to grow.

In 10 years, the prison population will rise to 10,329 inmates, the 
report forecasted - increasing from the 8,577 inmates reported in 2005.

Cell capacity in the state is 7,238.

The report attributes the growing population to more stringent parole 
qualifications, increases in the number of criminals, and longer prison stays.

Overcrowded cells leads to many of the internal problems in prisons, 
such as fights, said Democratic Rep. Dave Jacoby of Coralville. He 
added he was unsure whether overrun prisons lead to escapes, such as 
the Nov. 14 breakout of two inmates in Fort Madison.

"Is it because we're too full or because we have faulty fences?" he 
said. "Quite frankly, I do think we're going to have to increase the 
budget for corrections."

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he would be interested to 
see where the state could find money for new facilities with budget 
cuts, noting that building new prisons is one possibility to handle 

There are also other venues for easing high numbers of inmates, such 
as home detention, he said.

Lowell Brandt, the warden at the Iowa Medical & Classification Center 
at Oakdale, said the numbers released by Criminal Justice and 
Juvenile Planning tend to be incorrect because they are merely 
predictions and don't take into account changing factors within in 
the criminal-justice system.

Brandt said the inmate population is problematic in Oakdale, and 
rising population can lead to more issues within prison walls.

"Any time admissions get more crowded, tensions go up; health 
problems increase," he said. "Staff fatigue increases. That's not 
unique to prison environments. If you double the occupancy of the 
rooms in a college dormitory, I wouldn't be surprised if you had more 
problems in the dorm."

Jacoby said under-funding is one of the main causes for problems in 
the Oakdale facility.

"I think what happened is both parties talk a good political line, 
but what we do not do is fund the correctional system adequately," he 
said. "The public perception of what we want to do is lock them up, 
but we don't want to pay for them."

Officials must determine whether or not an expansion is needed, he said.

"We have to review every year who we're sending to prison," Jacoby 
said. "If we're short on beds to those who are most dangerous, then 
we will have to build more beds."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman