Prison Director Supports Many of Study's Findings

Omaha-World Herald
9 Sept. 1999
Des Moines Iowa prison director agrees with many findings of a University of Northern Iowa study that recommends taking a "carrot-and-stick" approach to managing the state's 7,500 inmates.

Part of Iowa Corrections Director W.L. "Kip" Kautzky's strategy to manage the state's growing number of long-term prisonsincludes controlling prison gangs, developing rehabilitation programs and eliminating weight-lifting gear at the new prison in Fort Dodge.

"We are not trying to have the strongest guys in the world," Kautzky said.

UNI's Center for Social and Behavioral Research conducted the study. Its report said prisoners should be allowed to watch television and lift weights but "no inmate privilege should be seen as an entitlement."

Researchers made several recommendations, including creating a prison gang task force to monitor gang affiliation and placing gang members in a separate facility.

"The Mexican Mafia are a big problem. The motorcycle gangs are a big problem, no question about it. There is a whole range of gangs," Kautzky said.

Gangs may be more difficult to deal with because cultural issues are sometimes involved. For instance, Southeast Asian inmates form gangs mostly for self-protection, Kautzky said.

He said the push against prison gangs now is focused on gathering information with the plan of using a "divide and conquer" strategy in the future.

"We need to separate them," he said. "You confuse their communications. You reduce your headaches dramatically if you get it under control that way," Kautzky said, adding that he does not plan to create a new task force.

Some recommendations in the report already have been implemented or looked at.

Plans are under way to develop a 200-bed special-needs unit at Fort Madison for inmates who are mentally ill or have medical disabilities. At Newton, troublemakers from Fort Madison and Anamosa who have improved their behavior will be given a chance to return to the general population.

As a result, the Fort Madison maximum-security prison will no longer be a "dead-end street" for inmates.

"The benefit to the system is that we won't have to use more lock- up space," which requires tight security and heavy staffing, Kautzky said.

"We will be able to use existing space more effectively," he said.

Kautzky also hopes to change the way an inmate is credited for good behavior. Instead of automatically deducting time from an inmate's sentence, Kautzky wants an inmate to earn the sentence reduction through good work or other examples of positive performance.

Another change involves strict guidelines in how much longer an inmate can be required to stay in prison for violating prison rules.

The report also recommends less-costly alternatives to prisons, such as community corrections programs.

Kautzky recently presented the Iowa Board of Corrections a list of improvements to those programs.

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