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Iowa Union Says State Covered Up Prison ‘Riot’

July 12, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Fort Madison, IA - The head of Iowa’s largest public-employee union is accusing the state Department of Corrections of “basically trying to cover up” what he called a “riot” at the Iowa State Penitentiary here July 1.

“The officers I talked to said that this was one of the scariest situations they had been in in their careers,” AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan told Radio Iowa July 6. While there was a brawl involving more than 50 prisoners, the department said, describing it as a “riot” to describe it “indicates either a lack of understanding… or a deliberate attempt to invoke a strong, emotional reaction.” “There were no assaults on staff, no hostages, and no damage to property,” it added. Homan called the racially motivated fracas “the single largest prison fight in our state’s history” and said some of the 72 inmates involved had used tennis rackets as weapons. The union has long criticized “dangerous understaffing” in Iowa’s prisons, and Homan noted that on the same day correctional officers “stopped a near-takeover” of the maximum-security prison by the inmates, legislation reclassifying them as “non-public safety” employees went into effect.” Read more

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