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Iowa Prison Boss Addresses Murders Of Staffers, Changes Underway In System

Anamosa, Iowa —  A flower garden at the Anamosa State Penitentiary was dedicated on Thursday in memory of nurse Lorena Schulte and corrections officer Robert McFarland.

They were brutally murdered during an escape attempt at the eastern Iowa prison on March 23rd. Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, addressed the Board of Corrections Friday morning via Zoom for the first time since the killings.

Two inmates are charged in the murders of Schulte and McFarland. Skinner says donations of cash and items are pouring in from all over the country to honor the two slain staffers, and emails and letters are arriving daily.

The killings caused “a major ripple effect” across the prison system, Skinner says, and a variety of changes are being implemented to prevent it from happening again. A new position is being created, a security operations director, who will oversee all nine Iowa prisons. Skinner says she’s hired Brian Foster for the position and he will start May 24th.

An independent team of investigators is doing an assessment of the Anamosa prison while all nine prisons are subject of a thorough external review. Skinner says she’s also been leading what she calls feedback forums.

In addition to new equipment, including fixed and body-worn cameras, she says suggestions are being made for better ways to communicate “from the bottom up and from the top down.” Skinner says she’ll be visiting all nine prisons every three months to gauge the progress.

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