Iowa Public Television

 

Robyn Mills and Arthur Neu

posted on December 23, 2005

Borg: A PRISON BREAK RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT BUILDING A NEW PENITENTIARY. WE'LL QUESTION IOWA BOARD OF CORRECTIONS MEMBERS ROBYN MILLS AND ARTHUR NEU ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE RECENT ESCAPE BY TWO CONVICTED MURDERERS FROM IOWA'S MAXIMUM SECURITY PENITENTIARY AT FORT MADISON HAS FOCUSED NEW ATTENTION ON THE STATE'S CORRECTION SYSTEM. IOWA NOW HAS 8,000 INMATES BEHIND BARS, ANOTHER 20,000 IN COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES. THE COMBINED TOTAL, 20 PERCENT MORE THAN WHAT'S CONSIDERED MAXIMUM CAPACITY. A NATIONAL COMMISSION IS REVIEWING IOWA'S PRISON NEEDS RIGHT NOW. IT'S POSSIBLE, SOME SAY HIGHLY PROBABLE, THAT THERE WILL BE A RECOMMENDATION TO BUILD A NEW PRISON TO REPLACE THE FACILITY AT FORT MADISON THAT WAS BUILT BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR. TWO MEMBERS OF IOWA'S BOARD OF CORRECTIONS ARE WITH US TODAY. FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ARTHUR NEU OF CARROLL IS A LONG-TIME MEMBER OF THAT BOARD. THE CORRECTIONS BOARD IS CHAIRED BY ROBYN MILLS OF JOHNSTON. WELCOME TO "IOWA PRESS."

Mills: THANK YOU.

Neu: THANK YOU.

Borg: NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE. ALSO AT THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: MS. MILLS, LET'S START WITH YOU. THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION FACING THE BOARD OF CORRECTIONS IS THE GOVERNOR HAS ASKED YOU FOR A RECOMMENDATION ON WHETHER WE NEED TO REPLACE THE PRISON AT FORT MADISON WITH A NEW PRISON. DO WE?

Mills: WELL, THAT'S WHAT WE'VE BEEN ASKED TO DO. WE HAVE A SUBCOMMITTEE THAT IS HAVING THEIR FIRST MEETING. IT WILL BE A CONFERENCE CALL NEXT WEEK TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS. AND I THINK THERE'S A WHOLE RANGE OF OPTIONS THAT WE CAN TAKE A LOOK AT, ALL FROM DOING NOTHING TO BUILDING A NEW FACILITY, AND WE'LL BE LOOKING AT ALL OF THEM.

Glover: WHAT'S THE TIMETABLE?

Mills: THE GOVERNOR GAVE US THIRTY DAYS. WE HOPE TO HAVE INITIAL RECOMMENDATIONS IN THIRTY DAYS, BUT IT MIGHT TAKE US A LITTLE LONGER, DEPENDING ON HOW DEEPLY WE DELVE INTO BUILDING A NEW PRISON.

Glover: MR. NEU, YOU'RE IN THE PROCESS OF COMING TO THIS CONCLUSION. WHAT'S YOUR PERSONAL VIEW? DO WE NEED TO REPLACE THAT PRISON?

Neu: MY PERSONAL VIEW -- AND I'M -- I'M FLEXIBLE, DEPENDING ON THE STUDY. BUT MY PERSONAL VIEW IS THE FORT -- IT'S NOT WORTH PUTTING A LOT MORE MONEY INTO THE FORT. IT'S ANTIQUATED.

Glover: OKAY. AND IF WE BUILD A NEW PRISON, WHERE DO WE BUILD IT?

Neu: PROBABLY IN FORT MADISON AT ONE OF THE FARM SITES.

Yepsen: WHY NOT OPEN THIS UP TO OTHER COMMUNITIES, MR. NEU? WHEN THE GOVERNOR FLOATED THIS IDEA, MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE SAID THIS SHOULD BE PUT UP FOR BID AND COMPETITION JUST LIKE THE LOCATION OF OTHER CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS.

Neu: I DON'T KNOW THAT YOU WANT TO -- I DON'T THINK YOU NECESSARILY -- IT'S GOING TO COST MORE, FIRST OFF, BECAUSE YOU HAVE A LOT OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A NEW PRISON IN FORT MADISON. YOU HAVE THE LAND AT THE FARM, AND YOU HAVE SOME OF THE OTHER FACILITIES. YOU STILL HAVE THE CCU UNIT THERE, THE CRITICAL CARE UNIT, THE JOHN BENNETT CENTER, AND THE TWO FARMS. SO WE HAVE A LOT OF THE FACILITIES THERE. IT WOULD BE LESS EXPENSIVE TO BUILD A NEW PRISON THERE THAN SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Yepsen: BUT HOW SMART IS IT TO BUILD A PRISON CLEAR IN THE EASTERN END OF THE STATE? THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN FINE WHEN IOWA WAS A TERRITORY AND THE PRISON WAS SITED, BUT CLEARLY THE CENTER OF IOWA'S POPULATION IS FARTHER WEST.

Neu: YEAH. OF COURSE, WE HAVE PRISONS IN FORT DODGE, MITCHELLVILLE, NEWTON. WE HAVE QUITE A FEW PRISONS IN CENTRAL IOWA. I DON'T KNOW THAT WE NEED ANOTHER ONE. AND I DON'T THINK IT'S THAT BIG OF A PROBLEM.

Yepsen: MS. MILLS, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS ISSUE OF COMPETITION?

Mills: WELL, WE BUILT THE NEW CRITICAL CARE UNIT A COUPLE YEARS AGO. WE HAD TO PUT $11 MILLION INTO OUR PHYSICAL PLANT DOWN THERE. THAT IS READY AND ABLE TO HOLD A PRISON CURRENTLY. THAT WOULD SAVE US QUITE A BIT OF MONEY IN STARTING FROM SCRATCH SOMEPLACE ELSE. WE ALSO HAVE A DEDICATED WORK FORCE THAT IS ALREADY TRAINED AND IN PLACE. AND FINALLY, SINCE WE HAVE THE CCU UNIT AND JOHN BENNETT, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO DUPLICATE YOUR ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF. YOU ALREADY -- DO ONE WARDEN FOR IT ALL AND BUSINESS MANAGER. SO IN ESSENCE, I BELIEVE THAT IT WOULD BE FAR CHEAPER TO KEEP IT THERE IN WHATEVER CAPACITY THAN TO MOVE IT.

Yepsen: YOU TOLD MIKE THAT THERE WERE SEVERAL OPTIONS THAT THE BOARD IS LOOKING AT. LET'S GO -- GO THROUGH THOSE. YOU SAID DOING NOTHING TO BUILDING A NEW PRISON. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OPTIONS YOU'RE LOOKING AT?

Mills: WELL, ONE IS TO DO NOTHING, TO DO MINOR CHANGES TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SECURITY IS OKAY. THE SECOND OPTION WOULD BE TO -- TO CLOSE THE CURRENT PRISON AND TO BUILD AT FARM ONE USING THE CURRENT INFRASTRUCTURE. YOU COULD ALSO TEAR DOWN THE -- THE THIRD OPTION WOULD BE TO TEAR DOWN PART OF THE OLDER BUILDINGS INSIDE AND PROVIDE BETTER LIGHTING, PROVIDE BETTER SECURITY, AND PROBABLY FOR A COST OF AROUND $5 MILLION TO UPGRADE THAT CURRENT FACILITY.

Glover: SO THAT'S JUST A RENOVATION OF THE EXISTING FACILITY?

Mills: A RENOVATION OF THE EXISTING FACILITY. AND THE FOURTH THING THAT WE COULD LOOK AT IS TO BULLDOZE MOST OF WHAT'S INSIDE THE PRISON WALLS AND TO PUT UP A FACILITY INSIDE THE PRISON WALLS. THE PROBLEM WITH THAT IS THAT IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO GET LARGE CONSTRUCTION ITEMS INTO THE PRISON, AND THE COST OF CONSTRUCTION WILL GO UP.

Borg: I'M WONDERING ABOUT TREATMENT PROGRAMS. I SAID IN OPENING THE PROGRAM THAT OUR PRISON POPULATION IS 20 PERCENT ABOVE THE CAPACITY RIGHT NOW. MS. MILLS, IS IOWA DOING AN ADEQUATE JOB, IN YOUR ESTIMATION, OF TREATING SEX OFFENDERS AND THOSE WHO ARE CONVICTED OF DRUG OFFENSES WHILE THEY'RE IN PRISON?

Mills: WELL, THEY'RE DOING AS GOOD A JOB AS MONEY ALLOWS. NOW, YOU REMEMBER FOUR YEARS AGO WE HAD CRITICAL BUDGET CUTS THAT REALLY SLICED INTO THE BUDGET FOR TREATMENT AND -- SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT AND OTHER TREATMENT. WE ARE BEGINNING TO BUILD THOSE PROGRAMS BACK UP. AND THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR ARE COMMITTED TO FUNDING THOSE ADEQUATELY, BUT WE HAVE A WAYS TO GO YET.

Glover: MR. NEU, ALL THE DISCUSSION CURRENTLY IS ABOUT WHETHER WE OUGHT TO RAZE FORT MADISON, BUILD A NEW PRISON IN FORT MADISON. THE ESCAPE AT FORT MADISON IS DRIVING EVERYTHING. SHOULDN'T THIS WHOLE REVIEW BE A SYSTEM-WIDE REVIEW, A LOOK AT THE STATE'S ENTIRE PRISON SYSTEM, AND DECIDE WHAT OUR NEEDS ARE AND HOW WE MEET THEM?

Neu: WELL, THAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE. I THINK WHEN YOU FIGURE 18 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION HAS MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS -- AND WE JUST HAD ONE PSYCHIATRIST FOR THOSE 1,800 PLUS -- 18 PERCENT OF THE INMATES, PART OF THE PROBLEM IS WE DO NEED MORE MENTAL HEALTH. AND THE MAKEUP OF THE POPULATION IS CHANGING. WE HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF METH OFFENDERS. THAT'S THE BIGGEST DRUG OFFENSE NOW. WHEREAS, NOW WE'VE GOT 3 PSYCHIATRISTS FOR ROUGHLY 1,500 PEOPLE, CHEROKEE HAS 5 PSYCHIATRISTS FOR 50 PEOPLE, THE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL THERE. THE ONE IN MOUNT PLEASANT HAS 3 PSYCHIATRISTS FOR 30 SOME PEOPLE. WE DO NEED -- WE DO NEED MORE TREATMENT FACILITIES, BUT WE DON'T HAVE THE FUNDS TO DO IT. AND SO IN THE SENSE OF TREATMENT, IT DOESN'T BOTHER ME TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE SYSTEM, BUT I THINK THERE HAS TO BE SOME MONEY PROVIDED FOR THE KIND OF TREATMENT THAT THESE PEOPLE NEED.

Glover: MS. MILLS, LET'S STEP BACK. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT REPLACING THE PRISON AT FORT MADISON. IT'S ALL DRIVEN BY THE ESCAPE AT FORT MADISON. SHOULDN'T, IN FACT, WE BE STEPPING BACK AND TAKING A LOOK AT OUR ENTIRE PRISON SYSTEM, WHAT KIND OF TREATMENT FACILITIES WE HAVE, WHAT KIND OF CONFINEMENT FACILITIES WE HAVE, HOW MANY PRISONERS WE CAN HANDLE?

Mills: I THINK THAT'S PART OF WHAT OUR COMMITTEE IS GOING TO DO. DO WE REALLY NEED ANOTHER 500 MAXIMUM SECURITY BEDS? DO WE MAYBE NEED SOME MORE MEDIUM, MORE TREATMENT BEDS? I KNOW THAT 66 PERCENT OF NEW ADMISSIONS ARE DRUG OFFENSE, WHICH DRUG OFFENSE TENDS TO BE NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS. DO WE NEED MORE MINIMUM BEDS, OR DO WE DEDICATE ONE PRISON STRICTLY FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT? AND THOSE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE'LL TAKE A LOOK AT.

Glover: AND THE STATE'S DRUG CZAR HAS RECOMMENDED JUST THAT, TAKING A FACILITY AND MAKING IT A DRUG PRISON. IS THAT A LIKELY OPTION?

Mills: I THINK IT DEFINITELY IS. I KNOW THAT THE DIRECTOR AND SEVERAL OF HIS STAFF HAVE GONE OVER TO ILLINOIS TO VISIT ONE SUCH UNIT. THEY HAVE A 1,600-BED FACILITY THAT IS DEDICATED TO INTENSIVE DRUG TREATMENT, AND THEY LIKED WHAT THEY SAW. AND IT WOULDN'T BE THAT DIFFICULT. IT WOULD REQUIRE SOME FUNDING, BUT IT WOULDN'T BE THAT DIFFICULT TO MAKE ONE OF OUR PRISONS THAT WAY.

Glover: MR. NEU, YOU MENTIONED TREATMENT AND DRUG OFFENSE AS BEING THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND THE PRISON POPULATION. DOES A DRUG PRISON MAKE SENSE?

Neu: YEAH, IT DOES TO ME AND CERTAINLY SOMETHING THAT I THINK WE SHOULD LOOK TO. I AGREE WITH WHAT ROBYN SAID IN THAT REGARD.

Yepsen: WELL, GOING BACK TO THIS QUESTION OF THE WHOLE PACKAGE, MR. NEU, I MEAN WILL YOU TELL THE LEGISLATURE -- YOU KNOW HOW THE LEGISLATURE IS --

Neu: YEAH, I'VE HEARD.

Yepsen: HERE'S THE WHOLE PACKAGE. HERE'S WHAT WE NEED: WE NEED A NEW PRISON; WE NEED MENTAL HEALTH PEOPLE; WE NEED A DRUG PRISON. ARE WE GOING TO GET A PACKAGE DEAL FROM -- FROM YOU FOLKS, OR IS THERE JUST GOING TO BE A DISCUSSION OF ONE NEW PRISON?

Neu: IT'S TOO EARLY TO SAY. I THINK WE'RE STARTING FROM SCRATCH. WE'VE REALLY JUST BEEN APPOINTED. WE HAVE OUR FIRST -- WE HAVE A TELEPHONE CONFERENCE MEETING ON THURSDAY THAT WILL BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY. AND SO WE ARE TOO EARLY TO PIN US DOWN EXACTLY WHAT WE'RE COMING UP WITH. I THINK WE'RE OPEN TO LOOKING AT ANYTHING.

Yepsen: HOW ABOUT PAYING FOR THIS? I MEAN YOU ALSO KNOW THAT SOMEBODY HAS TO WRITE A CHECK, SO WILL YOU -- WILL YOUR GROUP BE MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE ABOUT HOW WE PAY FOR ALL THIS, OR DO YOU JUST SAY HERE'S WHAT WE NEED, YOU GUYS COME UP WITH THE MONEY?

Neu: I THINK WE'LL BE TELLING THEM HOW MUCH WE ESTIMATE THE COST TO BE. AS FAR AS HOW THEY PAY FOR IT, THAT'S UP TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE HOW -- WE'RE NOT GOING TO COME UP AND RECOMMEND YOU INCREASE TAX WIDE TO PAY FOR THIS.

Yepsen: THE GOVERNOR HAS USED THE FIGURE $40 MILLION BUT, IN FACT, ISN'T THE PRICE TAG MUCH HIGHER?

Neu: YES, FOR A MAXIMUM SECURITY CERTAINLY.

Yepsen: HOW MUCH HIGHER?

Mills: THEY'RE LOOKING AT CLOSER TO $80 MILLION FOR A MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON FOR 600 BEDS.

Glover: MS. MILLS, STEP BACK AND TAKE US THROUGH YOUR THINKING AS YOU AND YOUR BOARD TAKES A LOOK AT THIS ISSUE. WHAT FACTORS ARE YOU GOING TO USE IN DECIDING RECOMMENDATIONS? IS IT GOING TO BE JUST COST? IS SECURITY GOING TO BE PARAMOUNT? IS PUBLIC SAFETY GOING TO BE PARAMOUNT? IS MEETING THE NEEDS OF PRISONER RIGHTS GOING TO BE PARAMOUNT? WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT GO INTO YOUR THINKING AS YOU LOOK AT THIS?

Mills: WELL, THE MISSION STATEMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS IS PUBLIC SAFETY, THE SAFETY OF INMATES, WORKERS, AND THE PUBLIC, SO THAT WILL BE OUR DRIVING FORCE. HOW WE COME ABOUT WITH OUR RECOMMENDATIONS, WE'LL BE FOCUSING ON THAT.

Glover: AND, MR. NEU, THE FACTORS THAT GO INTO YOUR THINKING?

Neu: THE SAME THING. ROBYN HAS STATED THE POLICY OF THE DEPARTMENT, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'LL BE FOLLOWING.

Yepsen: MS. MILLS, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT OCCURRED IN THIS PRISON ESCAPE, THIS MOST RECENT ESCAPE THAT PROMPTS THIS DISCUSSION TODAY, WAS THAT ONE OF THESE CHAPS WAS FROM ANOTHER STATE WHO WAS SERVING A SENTENCE HERE AS PART OF SOME EXCHANGE PROGRAM. WHY DO WE DO THAT? WHY DON'T WE LET OTHER STATES TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN INMATES AND WE'LL TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN?

Mills: WELL, IT'S MY UNDERSTANDING THAT SOMETIMES PRISONERS JUST DON'T WORK OUT IN YOUR STATE OR -- AND IT'S COMMON FOR ALL THE STATES TO HAVE RECIPROCITY. WE'LL TAKE ONE OF YOURS IF YOU'LL TAKE THIS PERSON OFF OUR HANDS. IT'S NOT UNUSUAL. AND WE DON'T JUST TAKE OTHER -- OTHER STATE'S INMATES WITHOUT -- WITHOUT EXCHANGING THEM. AND IT'S A COMMON PRACTICE.

Yepsen: IF WE'RE OVERCROWDED, WHY ARE WE IMPORTING BAD DUDES FROM OTHER STATES?

Neu: I THINK IT -- I THINK IT BALANCES, DAVID. THEY'RE TAKING SOME OF OURS TOO.

Glover: MR. NEU, THIS WHOLE THING, AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, THIS WHOLE DEBATE FLARED IN THE PUBLIC. I MEAN YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF ALL THE TIME, BUT THIS WHOLE DEBATE FLARED INTO THE PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WITH AN ESCAPE AT THE PRISON AT FORT MADISON. WHY DOES IT TAKE A CRISIS TO FORCE AN ISSUE LIKE THIS INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN? YOU'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR A LONG TIME.

Neu: PEOPLE AND POLITICAL FIGURES, FOR THE MOST PART, AREN'T INTERESTED IN CORRECTIONS. THERE ARE OTHER THINGS THAT DRAW THEIR ATTENTION. WE DON'T HAVE A VERY EFFECTIVE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION -- [ LAUGHTER ]

Neu: -- AND THEREFORE, WE'LL ONLY GET IN THE PUBLIC EYE WHEN SOMETHING DRAMATIC HAPPENS. AND IT'S TOO BAD; THAT'S NOT THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. AND I THINK THE DEPARTMENT UNDER THIS DIRECTOR AND UNDER HIS PREDECESSOR HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB WITH LIMITED RESOURCES. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE PER INMATE COST, IOWA IS BELOW MOST STATES. BUT WE COULD DO SO MUCH MORE. AND THE AREA THAT WE TEND TO IGNORE IS THE COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTIONS THAT WE HAVE ACROSS THE STATE, WHICH IS VERY INNOVATIVE. OTHER STATES HAVE COME IN AND TRIED TO COPY IT BECAUSE IT'S --

Borg: WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE THERE? YOU SAID WE COULD DO SO MUCH MORE.

Neu: I THINK -- I THINK PROBABLY THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE PRISONS THAT COULD BE RELEASED TO THE CBCs IF WE HAD MORE STAFF TO SUPERVISE THEM. YOU CAN'T TURN PEOPLE LOOSE AND THEN EXPECT SOME PROBATION OR PAROLE OFFICER TO POLICE HUGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE. SO WE'VE GOT THE FACILITIES NOW IN EACH JUDICIAL DISTRICT. WE HAVE RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES THAT RANGES ALL THE WAY FROM MINIMUM SECURITY RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES TO PEOPLE THAT LIVE AND WORK OUT IN THE COMMUNITY. AND IT'S A WONDERFUL SYSTEM AND WE COULD, I THINK, USE IT MORE THAN WE DO IF WE HAD MORE STAFF.

Glover: MS. MILLS, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. AN ESCAPE BROUGHT THIS ISSUE TO PUBLIC DEBATE. SHOULD ANOTHER ROLE OF YOUR BOARD OF CORRECTIONS BE TO TRY TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS, TO MAKE PRISON ISSUES A PUBLIC DEBATE BEFORE WE HAVE SOMETHING LIKE AN ESCAPE?

Mills: I COULDN'T AGREE MORE. WE'VE BEEN -- ART AND I HAVE BEEN AT THIS SINCE 1999. WE MAKE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS EVERY YEAR TO THE LEGISLATURE AND TO THE GOVERNOR, AND THEY GET SLICED. YOU KNOW, THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH PART OF THE PIE. AND WE HAVE A SECTION OF THE PIE, BUT IT COULD BE MUCH LARGER.

Glover: YOU TALKED ABOUT THE OPTIONS THAT YOU'RE FACED. IF YOU DECIDE TO BUILD A NEW PRISON, WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WITH THE OLD PRISON? SHOULD IT JUST BE BULLDOZED?

Mills: IT COULD BE A HISTORICAL LANDMARK. I MEAN IT WAS --

Glover: IT WAS BUILT IN 1839.

Mills: IT WAS BUILT IN 1839, THE ONE WING, AND THE CELL HOUSE WAS FINISHED IN 1854. I DON'T KNOW, MAYBE THE CITY OF FORT MADISON WOULD WANT TO -- SOMEBODY SAID MAKE A MUSEUM OUT OF IT.

Yepsen: WELL, MR. NEU, YOU HAVE SAID IT SHOULD BE BULLDOZED.

Neu: WELL, I WAS BEING A LITTLE GLIB, I'M AFRAID. THE POINT I WAS MAKING IS THAT WE'VE GOT TO FIND A BETTER PLACE FOR THOSE PEOPLE. I HADN'T THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING IT INTO A MUSEUM. THE THING IS TO BULLDOZE IT, IT'S GOING TO COST A LOT OF MONEY. THAT'S LIKE KNOCKING DOWN --

Glover: BUT ISN'T CREATING A MUSEUM THERE GOING TO COST A LOT OF MONEY TOO?

Neu: IT WILL COST MONEY. IT WON'T COST AS MUCH, I SUPPOSE.

Yepsen: MAYBE PUT A STARBUCKS IN THERE.

Neu: THAT'S A GOOD IDEA.

Yepsen: MR. NEU, I WANT TO GO BACK TO THIS OF QUESTION OF HOW MUCH IOWA SPENDS ON CORRECTIONS. YOU ARE CORRECT; IOWA'S PER CAPITA LEVELS OF SPENDING ON CORRECTIONS IS LESS THAN OTHER STATES. WHY IS THAT? IS IT YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD ALUMNI ASSOCIATION? HAVE YOU NOT BEEN EFFECTIVE? HAVE THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE IN THIS STATE NOT STEPPED UP TO THE PLATE?

Neu: OH, I THINK OVER THE TIME THAT I'VE BEEN ON THE BOARD, THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE HAVEN'T BEEN -- THEY'VE BEEN REALISTIC. WE'VE BEEN THROUGH SOME TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES, AND THE PRESSURE FOR MONEY FOR THEM IS GREATER IN OTHER AREAS. SO -- I UNDERSTAND HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS. ALL I'M SAYING IS WE COULD BE DOING A LOT BETTER IF WE HAD MORE FUNDS IN CERTAIN AREAS.

Yepsen: MS. MILLS, CAN I GET YOU TO CRITICIZE YOUR FRIEND, THE GOVERNOR, FOR NOT STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE HERE?

Mills: I THINK THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH A PART OF THE PIE -- THAT EVERYBODY STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE -- EDUCATION, HUMAN SERVICES -- EVERYONE WOULD SAY THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE TO PUT THE MONEY. THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH MONEY AND THEY HAVE TO -- THEY HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHERE TO GET THE BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK.

Glover: MS. MILLS, YOUR JOB, YOUR MISSION IS TO DEAL WITH PRISONERS THAT ARE SENT TO YOUR CORRECTIONAL FACILITY BY THE COURTS.

Mills: CORRECT.

Glover: TWO-PART QUESTION: ONE, IS IT IN YOUR PURVIEW TO DEAL WITH SENTENCING ISSUES; AND, TWO, CAN YOU ACTUALLY DEAL WITH CORRECTIONS ISSUES WITHOUT DEALING WITH THE WAY WE SENTENCE CRIMINALS?

Mills: IT IS OUR JOB TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS AS A CITIZEN BOARD TO THE LEGISLATURE ON SENTENCING ISSUES. EVERY BILL HAS A FISCAL IMPACT AND A CORRECTIONAL IMPACT. WHEN THEY PASS STRICTER LAWS ON CRIMINALS, IT DEFINITELY BUMPS UP OUR SYSTEM. AND SO, YES, IN A WAY WE HAVE TO STAND UP AND SAY, LOOK, THIS IS WHAT IT'S GOING TO DO TO OUR SYSTEM AND YOU NEED TO ALSO STEP UP AND PAY FOR IT.

Glover: MR. NEU, SAME QUESTION TO YOU. IS IT IN YOUR PURVIEW TO DEAL WITH SENTENCING AND, IF SO, WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Neu: WELL, I THINK IF WE THINK SENTENCING LAWS ARE GOING TO IMPACT ON THE POPULATION, WE HAVE EVERY OBLIGATION TO TELL THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR THAT IF YOU DO THIS, THIS IS GOING TO BE THE EFFECT ON THE POPULATION. AND REMEMBER, EVERY -- THE AVERAGE COST OF KEEPING SOMEONE IN THE PRISONS IS $23,000, A LITTLE OVER THAT EVERY YEAR. WE COULD SEND THEM TO A BOARD OF REGENTS INSTITUTIONS AND SAVE A LOT OF MONEY, BUT THEY PROBABLY WOULDN'T ADMIT THEM.

Yepsen: SETTING ASIDE THE ISSUE OF BUILDING A NEW PRISON, TALK ABOUT THIS SENTENCING MORE. WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS -- AND MS. MILLS, I'LL START WITH YOU. WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS WILL YOU BE MAKING TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE FOR CHANGES THAT OUGHT TO BE MADE IN OUR CURRENT SENTENCING STRUCTURE?

Mills: WE HAVE NOT MADE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS AT THIS TIME, NOR HAVE WE FOCUSED ON THAT AS A BOARD THIS YEAR. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT IT WILL BE PART OF OUR SUBCOMMITTEE. I DON'T BELIEVE IT WILL BE PART OF OUR SUBCOMMITTEE ABOUT BUILDING OR NOT BUILDING. WE HAVE IN THE PAST ASKED THAT THEY TAKE A LOOK AT THE 85-PERCENT RULE. THEY DID TAKE A LOOK AT THAT AND REDUCED IT TO 70 PERCENT. SOMEBODY WITH A --

Yepsen: EXPLAIN FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND; WHAT IS THE 85-PERCENT RULE?

Mills: YEARS AGO THE LEGISLATURE PASSED, FOR ANY VIOLENT CRIME, THAT YOU SERVE 80 -- 85 PERCENT OF YOUR SENTENCE. SO FOR A CLASS B FELON, YOU WOULD HAVE TO SERVE 42 YEARS OF YOUR SENTENCE. WE ASKED THEM TO TAKE A LOOK AT REDUCING THAT A LITTLE BIT. AND SO THEY, I BELIEVE LAST YEAR, REDUCED IT TO 70 PERCENT. THE VIOLENT OFFENDER STILL SERVES 35 YEARS IN PRISON, BUT THAT SAVES -- AND WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING AT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANNING AGENCY'S REPORT, THAT REDUCES THE TEN-YEAR AVERAGE BY ABOUT A PRISON.

Yepsen: MR. NEU, SAME QUESTION. WHAT SENTENCING RECOMMENDATIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE?

Neu: WELL, I THINK WHAT ROBYN SAID WAS A BIG IMPROVEMENT AND IT HELPS A GREAT DEAL. I'VE ALWAYS BEEN OF THE OPINION THAT I'D RATHER RELY ON THE COURTS TO MAKE A DECISION ABOUT SOMEONE'S SENTENCING THAN THE LEGISLATURE. I DON'T LIKE THIS COOKIE CUTTER SENTENCING. SO I PREFER -- IF THE COURTS ARE INCONSISTENT, AS THEY ALWAYS WILL BE, I STILL THINK THAT'S BETTER. THEY CAN TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE DIFFERENCES IN THE CRIME, IN THE PERSON, AND A LOT OF THAT; WHEREAS, WHEN YOU SAY EVERYBODY WHO COMMITS CRIME "X" HAS TO SERVE "X" NUMBER OF YEARS, I DON'T THINK THAT'S A GOOD POLICY. BUT HAVING SAID THAT, I THINK THE REDUCTION FROM 85 PERCENT TO 70 PERCENT WAS A VERY POSITIVE MOVE. AND AS ROBYN SAID, OVER A PERIOD OF A FEW YEARS, THAT SHOULD REDUCE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE COMING IN.

Yepsen: SO WEAKER PRISON SENTENCES.

Neu: YEAH, THAT'S ONE THING. AND A LOT OF THEM WE COULD HANDLE IN THE CBCs, IF WE HAD THE STAFF THERE.

Yepsen: COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTIONS.

Neu: YEAH.

Glover: MS. MILLS, LET'S STEP BACK AND TAKE A LOOK AT SOMETHING THAT IS BECOMING CLEAR TO ALL OF US THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO DEAL WITH AGAIN IN THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE SESSION, AND THAT'S TOUGHENING THE STATE'S SEX ABUSE LAWS. IN THE LAST LEGISLATIVE SESSION, THEY PASSED A BILL LENGTHENING SENTENCES FOR SEX OFFENDERS, TIGHTENING SUPERVISION OF SEX OFFENDERS, AND PUTTING A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS IN PLACE. IS THAT WORKING? BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE WE'RE GOING TO GET MORE OF THE SAME IN THE NEXT SESSION.

Mills: IT DOES LOOK -- WE HAVE TO STEP BACK AND SAY WE ARE A CITIZEN BOARD AND OUR JOB IS TO MANAGE WHATEVER THE LEGISLATURE GIVES US. SO IF THEY WANT TO PUT GPS ON EVERY SINGLE SEX OFFENDER, WE CAN DO THAT BUT IT WILL BE VERY COSTLY AND POSSIBLY GIVE THE PUBLIC A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY.

Glover: BUT AS A BOARD, YOU ARE THE EXPERTS IN THIS FIELD.

Mills: WE'RE THE EXPERTS ON HOUSING AND MANAGING THE PEOPLE THAT THE COURTS GIVE US. WE'RE NOT THE EXPERTS ON SENTENCING POLICY, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO SEX OFFENDERS.

Glover: MR. NEU, SAME QUESTION TO YOU. THE LEGISLATURE IS LIKELY TO WEIGH BACK INTO THIS SEX OFFENDER THING. IS IT WORKING?

Neu: WELL, IT SEEMS TO ME -- CERTAINLY I AGREE WITH ROBYN, BUT I FIND -- WELL, I LIVE IN CARROLL AND WE TOOK THE LAW AND DREW A RADIUS -- A CIRCLE AROUND EVERY CHURCH, SCHOOL --

Glover: THIS IS THE 2,000-FOOT LIMIT THAT'S INCLUDED IN THAT LAW --

Neu: YEAH. AND THERE'S NOTHING LEFT. I MEAN -- I DON'T KNOW WHERE -- THESE PEOPLE HAVE TO LIVE SOMEWHERE WHEN THEY GET OUT. SO I'M NOT TERRIBLY TAKEN WITH THE PROPOSAL. AND THEN YOU'VE GOT TO CONSIDER THAT A SEX OFFENDER MIGHT BE SOME NINETEEN OR TWENTY YEAR OLD WHO HAD SEX WITH A MINOR WHO MIGHT HAVE BEEN SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. NOW, I DON'T THINK THAT PERSON -- WHAT THEY DID WAS WRONG, BUT I DON'T THINK THEY OUGHT TO BE TREATED AS A SEX OFFENDER.

Yepsen: WELL, MR. NEU, YOU'VE DESCRIBED THE PROBLEM WELL, THE DILEMMA. WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?

Neu: WELL, I SUPPOSE -- IDEALLY THE SOLUTION IS TO CHANGE THE LAW. THAT'S NOT OUR PURVIEW. UNFORTUNATELY, WE'LL BE TELLING THE LEGISLATURE THAT IF YOU DO THIS, THIS WILL BE THE IMPACT ON THE PRISON SYSTEM.

Yepsen: WELL, SOME REPUBLICANS IN THE LEGISLATURE HAVE SAID THAT MAYBE WE OUGHT TO MODIFY THAT 2,000-FOOT RULE. LANCE HORBACH WAS ON THIS SHOW AND SAID THAT TO ALLOW COMMUNITIES TO SAY MAYBE SOMEBODY CAN LIVE WITHIN THE 2,000-FOOT LIMIT, THAT IN FACT THERE MAY BE PEOPLE IN CARROLL, IOWA, THAT HAVE LIVED THERE ALL THEIR LIVES WHO STILL ARE SEX OFFENDERS, AND YOUR COMMUNITY COULD SAY, LOOK, THIS GUY IS OKAY, WE DON'T MIND. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT IDEA?

Neu: NOTHING.

Yepsen: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT IDEA?

Mills: I THINK A -- THE ABILITY TO REVIEW IT IN THE COMMUNITIES IS AN EXCELLENT OPTION. GIVE THE SEX OFFENDERS SOME PLACE TO GO TO ASK FOR REVIEW.

Yepsen: SOME -- THERE HAVE BEEN -- FOR A WHILE THERE, IOWA HAD DRUG TREATMENTS FOR SEX OFFENDERS. IT WAS CALLED CHEMICAL CASTRATION. MS. MILLS, THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO WORK BECAUSE A LOT OF PHYSICIANS WOULDN'T ADMINISTER THE DRUGS. DO WE NEED TO RELOOK AT THAT WHOLE ISSUE OF CHEMICAL TREATMENTS?

Mills: AGAIN, IT'S NOT A PART OF OUR PURVIEW. AND BEING A CITIZEN, I HAVE NOT STUDIED ENOUGH TO KNOW -- TO KNOW THE OPTIONS.

Yepsen: MR. NEU?

Neu: WELL, I HAVEN'T EITHER. I -- MY -- I DON'T LIKE IT JUST ON THE SURFACE, BUT I HAVEN'T GIVEN IT THAT GREAT DEAL OF THOUGHT. AND I DON'T THINK THAT'S UP TO THE BOARD TO TELL THE LEGISLATURE ABOUT IT.

Glover: MS. MILLS, THERE'S ANOTHER FACTOR THAT GOES INTO THIS WHOLE DEAL OF DEALING WITH SEX OFFENDERS, AND THAT'S THE IDEA OF -- WE TALKED EARLIER ABOUT TREATMENT PROGRAMS -- BEEFING UP TREATMENT PROGRAMS IN PRISON. THERE'S A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT WITHIN THE LEGISLATURE -- A LOT OF LEGISLATORS WHO SAY TREATMENT JUST DOESN'T WORK AND WE OUGHT NOT TO WASTE OUR MONEY ON IT. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Mills: I THINK EVENTUALLY MOST OF THESE OFFENDERS ARE GOING TO GET OUT IN THE PUBLIC, AND I'D CERTAINLY RATHER HAVE THEM GO THROUGH ANGER MANAGEMENT TREATMENT, DRUG ABUSE TREATMENT, ALCOHOL TREATMENT. MOST OF THEM ARE DUALLY DIAGNOSED WITH MORE THAN ONE PROBLEM. I'D MUCH RATHER HAVE THEM HAVE TREATMENT IN PROGRAMS -- I MEAN TREATMENT IN PRISON AND THEN GO INTO THE COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTIONS AND HAVE A BIT MORE TREATMENT THAN TO JUST LET THEM WASTE AWAY IN PRISON AND THEN LET THEM OUT. I MEAN I THINK --

Borg: MR. NEU, I'M GOING TO PICK UP ON WHAT YOU JUST SAID BECAUSE A FEW MINUTES AGO YOU FACETIOUSLY SAID IT'S CHEAPER TO PUT THEM IN A BOARD OF REGENTS INSTITUTION --

Neu: YEAH.

Borg: BUT -- AND I KNOW YOU SAID THAT FACETIOUSLY, BUT JUST FOLLOWING UP ON THAT, SHOULD YOU BE, AS A COMMISSION, MAKING SURE THAT THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE CONFINED HAVE ACCESS TO EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES?

Neu: I THINK -- I THINK WE OUGHT TO -- WE OUGHT TO -- ONE OF THE THINGS WE COULD IMPROVE WOULD BE TO PROVIDE FUNDING TO BRING THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES INTO THE PRISONS ON A MUCH LARGER BASIS THAN THEY ARE, YEAH. SO I THINK EDUCATION IN THE PRISONS FOR THOSE INMATES THAT WANT IT -- AND I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF THEM -- WOULD BE A GOOD THING. IT WAS CUT BACK SOME DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 2002 WHEN WE HAD A REDUCTION. AND I THINK THERE OUGHT TO BE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO PUT MONEY INTO THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE --

Glover: MR. NEU, YOU'RE A REFORMED POLITICIAN. YOU'VE BEEN IN PUBLIC LIFE BEFORE. YOU UNDERSTAND THE DIFFICULTIES AND THE PRESSURES THAT ARE ON THIS LEGISLATURE. WE'RE COMING INTO AN ELECTION YEAR WITH A LEGISLATURE THAT'S VERY NARROWLY DIVIDED, WITH A GOVERNOR WHO IS NOT RUNNING FOR REELECTION, AND A GOVERNOR'S ELECTION UP AND RUNNING IN BOTH PARTIES. HOW DO YOU ADVISE THESE PEOPLE OF DEALING WITH THE POLITICAL PRESSURES OF THAT ELECTION YEAR AND ANYTHING THEY DO TO EASE SENTENCING, TO EASE PRISON OVERCROWDING IS GOING TO BE DESCRIBED AS BEING SOFT ON CRIME?

Neu: THE ONLY WAY IT'S GOING TO BE DONE IS IF IT'S DONE IN A BIPARTISAN FASHION. I DON'T THINK EITHER PARTY NOR THE GOVERNOR IS GOING TO TAKE IT ON ALL BY THEMSELVES. I THINK IF THERE'S GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANT PRISON REFORM THAT EVERYBODY SHOULD SIT DOWN, THE LEADERSHIP IN THE TWO PARTIES OF THE TWO HOUSES AND THE GOVERNOR, AND TRY TO WORK SOMETHING OUT. NO ONE PARTY IS GOING TO DO IT ALONE, BECAUSE THEY FEEL THEY'D BE VULNERABLE.

Glover: MS. MILLS, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND. YOU'VE BEEN AROUND THE LEGISLATURE AND POLITICS FOR A GOOD LONG TIME. A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE LEGISLATURE WOULD JUST LIKE THIS ISSUE TO GO AWAY UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION OF 2006.

Mills: I THINK I COULD AGREE WITH THAT.

Glover: HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?

Mills: WELL, YOU JUST NEED TO -- YOU JUST NEED TO PUT YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS OUT THERE AND MAKE YOUR CASE. THEY -- THEY WILL TAKE A LOOK AT IT, BUT I AGREE WITH ART SAYING THAT IT HAS TO BE BIPARTISAN THIS YEAR IF ANYTHING IS GOING TO BE DONE. THEY HAVE TO SAY LET'S PUT POLITICS ASIDE, LET'S WORK TOGETHER, AND LET'S MAKE SOME CHANGES.

Yepsen: MR. NEU, WE'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS LEFT. WHAT ARE THE LONG -- YOU TALK ABOUT HOUSING AND THAT YOUR JOB IS TO WAREHOUSE THESE GUYS. WHAT ARE THE LONG -- WHAT ARE LONG-TERM PROJECTIONS THAT -- ARE WE GOING TO HAVE MORE INMATES? FEWER?

Neu: CJJP SAYS IN TEN YEARS WE'LL NEED THREE NEW PRISONS. I DON'T THINK -- WE DON'T AGREE WITH THAT. WE THINK THAT -- WE'VE KIND OF LEVELED THE POPULATION OFF, SO HOPEFULLY IF WE CAN DO -- BEEF UP THE CBCs, THE PAROLE BOARD WORKS WELL WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WE COULD POSSIBLY HOLD OUR POPULATION LEVEL. AND THEN REDUCING THE MANDATORY 87 PERCENT TO 70 PERCENT IS GOING TO BE A BIG HELP OVER THE YEARS. IT'S A -- I THINK THERE'S A CHANCE THAT WE CAN LEVEL IT OFF.

Borg: WE WORK WITHIN THE CONFINES OF TIME HERE, AND OUR SENTENCE IS UP. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US TODAY AND YOUR INSIGHTS. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," IOWA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL, TOM MILLER, WILL BE HERE WITH ADDITIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON IOWA'S CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM AND THE LAWS THAT PUT MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND BARS. THAT'S NEXT FRIDAY AT 7:30 FOR OUR CONVERSATION WITH IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER. THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

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