By Rachel Leber
WARREN COUNTY, Iowa — In the years spanning 2010 to 2018, county jail conditions in Warren County went from bad to worse. After eight years of failed inspections and the warning to get things up to code, the jail in Warren County was finally shut down by the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) on Feb. 2.
Iowa conducts inspections each year to ensure all jail facilities in the state meet a minimum level of compliance with health, safety security and sanitary conditions. Generally, when facilities are out of compliance, it is manageable for jail administrators to take appropriate actions to correct the issues.
However, in the case of Warren County — in addition to the long list of violations — the length of time that the violations persisted left the DOC with no choice but to suspend the jail until corrective action can be taken, according to the notice written to the jail by Iowa’s chief jail inspector Delbert Longley on Jan. 16.
Additionally, Longley had already warned the Warren County Board of Supervisors that the state would close the jail if the county did not set a bond referendum vote by Jan. 31 to pay for renovations or the construction of a new jail, according to the Des Moines Register. In fact, warnings and instructions to improve the conditions of the jail have been sent to Warren County since 2014.
Issues that led to the jail closure include but are not limited to poor air quality, inadequate water supply, overpopulation, poor cleanliness and hygiene, poor food storage, spray foam insulation, rust on walls and vents, multiple health concerns, and safety and security concerns (there were two escapes in 2015 and one in 2016).
The poor conditions of the jail were made exceptionally clear in a letter written by the Warren County Board of Supervisors in June 2016, more than two years before the closure was ordered, with the statement, “It does not take a person who has worked in a jail for decades to recognize the serious health and safety issues staff and inmates encounter in this facility. This jail has serious issues that can be seen and smelled by anyone walking into the jail or even the courthouse.”
Until compliance with code is achieved, inmates from Warren County will be sent to Jasper County as well as possibly be kept in temporary trailers in Indianola, Norwalk and Carlisle, costing approximately $18,000 per month.