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Iowa OSHA: Anamosa State Penitentiary didn’t have enough staffing or communications during an emergency

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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KWWL) - A state agency last August warned the Iowa Department of Corrections of multiple deficiencies within Anamosa State Penitentiary, eight months before the murder of Corrections Officer Robert McFarland, and Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte.

The Department of Corrections received citations from Iowa OSHA for inadequate radio communications equipment and lacking enough prison staff.

Iowa OSHA deals with safety and health guidelines within workplaces, they fined the DOC $20,007 for safety violations related to Anamosa Prison.

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Citations Issued to Anamosa Issued 08/18/20

Radio Issues

The citation from Iowa OSHA discussed TAIT Radios have “shortcomings that impeded the communication abilities of staff facility-wide," to employees.

In the complaint, OSHA says the radios are faulty with unprompted “man-down” alarms and "drop radio transmissions." Master control in the complaint is said to have problems with the radios on poor quality of transmission after an alarm triggered and malfunctions with center consoles, or there's an inability to receive a transmission.

Iowa OSHA says “These deficiencies slow or prevent the adequate response of correctional officers during an emergency or threat of attack."

"These deficiencies slow or prevent the adequate response of correctional officers during an emergency or threat of attack."

Iowa OSHA

Staffing needed to respond to an emergencies

The report in Iowa OSHA says those in charge of responding to prison emergencies are unable to respond when needed.

The complaint citation says those who would respond to emergency situations might not be able to respond if they are with a protective custody inmate, supervising inmates with Class-A tools, transporting inmates to the hospital, assisting with medication passing, providing break relief or various other tasks that don’t allow a responder to leave their spot.

Iowa OSHA says these problems consistently stops individuals from responding during violent attacks by offenders on correctional staff.

Other Issues

In the complaint, Iowa OSHA touched on other issues involving dangerous fall conditions for employees because stair rails are not tall enough, and training are not supportive for questions and answers.

"The department is currently contesting two IOSHA citations issued to ASP and IMCC from 2020, with hearings scheduled in July and August of 2021. 
While we can not go into specific details about our response to the allegations while the case remains open, we are confident in our data that indicates our radio communication system has not caused any delays in response to staff assaults. Iowa OSHA's investigation did not include interviews with management to confirm or deny allegations and did not include a  review of specific incidents where the emergency button was utilized by staff. The department would not be contesting these citations if we did not have factual data supporting our case. 
The safety and security of our staff is our department's highest priority. In normal circumstances, our department has worked closely with IOSHA to build a proactive positive safety culture within our prison systems. We have invited IOSHA into all nine of our prisons during the past 2 years and will continue to improve our safety programs as needed. "

Spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Corrections, Cord Overton

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Vinny Lowerre

Producer & Multimedia Journalist

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