- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) - Iowa’s new maximum-security prison in Fort Madison is nearly ready to house prisoners.

Prison officials expect to move into the new facility sometime in the next few weeks once the State Fire Marshal approves, The Burlington Hawk Eye reported (https://bit.ly/1gQR6zi ) Sunday.

But Rebecca Bowker, executive officer of the penitentiary in Fort Madison, said the moving date won’t be announced ahead of time for security reasons.

“We are still (planning) to move before it is officially summer,” she said. “However, we are still working through several issues with the state fire marshal regarding occupancy.”

The new $132 million prison was built about a mile north of the current Iowa State Penitentiary in the southeast corner of the state. It has 800 beds, which is 250 more than the current facility.

Bowker said the move of about 600 prisoners is expected to take about a day to complete. Some equipment and furniture has already been moved.

The new prison is much larger than the existing one, and it includes more than 350 cameras to monitor prisoners.

Plans for the new prison got underway in 2005 after two inmates escaped from the current facility.

The new prison has electrified, razor-wire fencing, and the cell locks are wired to a central hub. Most of the training for prison workers has already been completed, Bowker said.

The current Iowa State Penitentiary was built in 1839 and is the oldest operating prison west of the Mississippi River.

The city of Fort Madison may try to reopen the old prison as a tourist attraction.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com


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