JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Tom Vilsack said he removed the warden of a prison where two inmates escaped last week by using a homemade grappling hook.
The Iowa State Penitentiary warden, Ken Burger, will be reassigned and soon will retire, the governor said Tuesday.
Vilsack said seven prison employees now have been disciplined over the escape of Joseph Legendre, 27, and Martin Moon, 34. He blamed the escape on a significant breach of security and said there had been no head count in the prison section where the two men worked.
“Essentially, what happened was a count was not made in the prison industries section of the prison that would have identified immediately that individuals were missing,” Vilsack said during a taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program, to air next weekend. “This was not about staffing, this was about people doing their job.”
The inmates used a rope fashioned from upholstery webbing and homemade grappling hook to scale a 30-foot wall at the prison in Fort Madison. Both men were recaptured late last week — one in Illinois and the other in Missouri.
Moon was serving a life sentence for murder in the 1990 shooting death of his roommate during a drug deal. Legendre was convicted in Nevada in the kidnapping and attempted murder of a Las Vegas cabbie.
Burger became warden of the prison in January 2004 and was honored by the governor with a “Leader of the Year” award, which recognizes achievement in a particular area such as staff development or effective management.
A telephone message left Tuesday at the state prison for Burger was not immediately returned.
Vilsack said he also has asked the state’s board of corrections for a recommendation on building a new maximum security prison to replace the current facility, which was built in 1839.
The current prison, which can hold up to 550 inmates, was extensively renovated in 1982 when the large cell blocks were divided into smaller, self-contained living units.
Vilsack estimated the cost of a new prison at $40 million with an annual operating budget of $6 million.
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