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Iowa Governor Fires Warden After Six Inmates Escape

August 30, 1996

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The warden of Iowa’s maximum-security prison was fired after he sent six inmates _ five of them convicted murderers _ on a cross-country trip with two unarmed guards.

The inmates took the guards hostage at a rest stop in Amarillo, Texas, Wednesday and led authorities on a two-hour, 100-mile chase before they were recaptured near the Oklahoma border.

On Thursday, Gov. Terry Branstad dismissed Iowa State Penitentiary Warden Geraldo Acevedo after 13 months on the job.

``The deputy warden at Fort Madison had very grave misgivings about sending these prisoners with these particular people,″ Branstad said. ``He and other members of the staff down there expressed their reservations and concerns to the warden. The warden made the decision to go ahead.

``This was very bad judgment,″ the governor said.

The inmates were being taken from the prison in Fort Madison to New Mexico as part of a prisoner exchange.

The escape could have been avoided if the guards followed the state’s instructions to stop only at county jails and state prisons during the trip, said Sally Chandler Halford, Iowa’s corrections director.

Prisoners are kept shackled and handcuffed inside cages in vans equipped with doors that only open from the outside. Halford said Iowa has terminated its contract with the company involved, Michigan-based R & S Prison Transport Service.

In the last two months, an inmate was shot in an attempted escape during a visit to an Iowa City hospital; a guard was stabbed by an inmate; 13 inmates trashed their cells; and a search of the prison by authorities turned up more than 100 homemade weapons.

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