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Governor candidates square off: Which one is tougher on crime?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Both of the candidates for governor take tough stands on crime issues, but they offer different approaches to the question of whether to build a new prison.

Republican Jim Nussle is skeptical about the need to rebuild Iowa's only maximum security penitentiary, a 166-year-old prison in Fort Madison.

"I am not convinced the state needs a new prison," said Nussle, adding that if elected he would pursue a top-to-bottom review of the state's corrections system. "This means a comprehensive look at prison security, resources and technology across the state."

Democrat Chet Culver said he would support construction of a new prison at Fort Madison "in consultation with the Board of Corrections."

"If it is built, he will see that it is done in Fort Madison," Culver's campaign said in a statement.

Both candidates agreed that attention must be paid to staffing levels in Iowa's prison, where corrections officers complain they are outmanned.

Culver said he is especially concerned about how staffing impacts medical needs in the prisons.

Nussle reiterated the need for a review process to determine whether the Corrections Department needs more staffing and funding.

Both contenders said they would favor toughening the state's sex abuse laws, an issue that's become a perennial topic in legislative debates.

Nussle called for greater enforcement of a state law banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks, schools or certified day-care centers. His plan would use global positioning system technology.

"I have proposed the implementation of a real-time monitoring GPS system that tracks sexual predators in order to catch them if they violate the 2,000-foot law," said Nussle.

Some have argued that the tight restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live leaves them with virtually no options, but neither Nussle nor Culver showed much sympathy for such offenders.

Culver said he would oppose any effort to weaken those rules.

Both candidates also said they would push for new laws on drug abuse, focusing mainly on the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.

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