Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Friday the Senate will “absolutely” include more money for Iowa prisons in its budget.
Senate Republicans’ initial budget outline, released March 24, included an additional $4 million to Iowa’s Department of Corrections. The department came into the spotlight the day before when two inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary attacked and killed two staff members.
Whitver said Senate Republicans would look to Beth Skinner, director of the Department of Corrections, to determine how much additional funding would be needed to ensure the safety of prison staff.
“Part of that discrepancy is that we rolled out that number the day after the incident happened, so that process of figuring out how much we need in addition, if there are safety concerns, has not been vetted,” he said.
He made his comments on the April 9 episode of “Iowa Press,” which aired Friday and Sunday on Iowa PBS.
House Republicans proposed an additional $20.5 million for the Department of Corrections, which they say is the biggest increase to the department’s budget since 2012.
Democrats and AFSCME union representatives responded that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of prison workers. House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, told reporters Thursday the state needs to take a systemic approach to change at the department.
“Is $20 million enough? Nobody knows that. That’s just a number that somebody has thrown at this for whatever reason,” Prichard said. “… Let’s have an honest discussion about how these prisons are managed, how this system works and how we’re going to keep our state employees, our law enforcement officials, correctional officers and nurses, how we’re going to keep them safe.”
Whitver said he expects the final budget to include a number between the Senate’s $4 million proposal and the House’s $20 million.
“It’s going to come somewhere in between there after talking with both the governor and the director of corrections,” he said.