- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A long-delayed new Iowa State Penitentiary still does not have a scheduled opening date, the director of the Iowa Department of Corrections said Friday.

Director John Baldwin said the maximum-security prison in Fort Madison, which has been held up by construction problems, is waiting for a certification that will help determine if the smoke detection system needs fixes.

“Believe it or not, that place is going to open up,” Baldwin said during a budget presentation to Gov. Terry Branstad.

The prison has been nearly a year delayed in opening due to flaws in a geothermal heating and cooling system and the smoke detection system.

Baldwin is seeking the same budget of nearly $379 million for the next fiscal year, but offered proposals for how the department would spend about $15 million in additional funds if the state provides more resources. Extra dollars would go to services such as medical treatments, mental health services programs for female inmates and care for an aging prison population.

Baldwin warned of some issues that the system is dealing with, including a need for mental health services and a rise in transgendered inmates. He also noted a number of people may be released in the next few years from a long-term program that houses sexually violent predators who have completed prison terms, but were deemed unsafe to be released.

There are currently about 8,200 inmates in nine Iowa prisons.

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