The Des Moines Register, Saturday, April 4, 1998, Page 6M

Women's prison to be renovated


    Fort Dodge, Ia. - State officials outlined plans Friday for a major expansion and renovation of the aging Mitchellville prison to cope with sharply higher numbers of female inmates.
    Mitchellville Warden Barbara Long told the Iowa Board of Corrections, which held its monthly meeting in Fort Dodge, that ground will be broken this fall on the $16 million first phase of the construction plans.  The work will include new housing for 208 inmates.
    Long said the prison had only 60 inmates when she arrived in 1985, but it now holds nearly 500 women in space rated for fewer than 300.
    Some projections show the Mitchellville inmate population could clinib to 800 to 900 or even much higher over the next decade.
    One of the key reasons behind the growth has been a rising number of women serving time for drug-related crimes.
    "We have been growing by leaps and bounds," Long said.   She warned that the current inmate population at Mitchellville "is just the tip of the iceberg of what is coming."
    The first phase of the improvements, due to be completed in 2000, includes construction of a 160-bed medium-security dormitory and a 48-bed unit with cells.
    Some of the other plans include a new prison industries building, a remodeled visitor center, relocation of inmate programs, construction of a new entrance road, and security improvements.
    About $3.6 million will be spent to replace antiquated heating equipment and to upgrade other utilities.  Some of this equipment was originally installed many years ago when the institution was a state juvenile facility for girls.
    The expense of the first-phase construction will be paid for with a mix of money that includes federal anti-crime grants and state appropriations pending before the Iowa Legislature, officials said.
    Iowa Corrections Director W. L. "Kip" Kautzky said that by some projections, Iowa could have more than 1,500 women behind bars by 2007 if current trends continue.
    Kautzky noted that five inmates at Mitchellville have a lawsuit pending against the Iowa Department of Corrections, alleging that their living conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Reporter William Petroski can be
reached at (515) 284-8547 or

The Des Moines Register
Saturday, April 4, 1998, Page 6M