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State Names New Wardens To Lead Prisons In Anamosa, Fort Dodge, Rockwell City

J. Stephen Conn/Flickr
South Dakota prison official Kristofer Karberg has been named the incoming warden of the Anamosa State Penitentiary, where two staffers were killed on the job in March, allegedly by two inmates.

The Iowa Department of Corrections named two new prison wardens Friday, including one to oversee the troubled Anamosa State Penitentiary. Security will be a top priority at the facility, after two staffers there were killed on the job in March, allegedly by two inmates.

Incoming Warden Kristofer Karberg says he knows taking the helm in Anamosa won’t be an easy assignment. He was on the team of out-of-state prison officials that was on the ground reviewing the facility in the wake of the killings of Nurse Lorena Schulte and Correctional Officer Robert McFarland.

Investigators say inmates Michael Dutcher and Thomas Woodard used prison-issued hammers to bludgeon Schulte and McFarland to death during an unsuccessful escape attempt. The inmates are also alleged to have briefly kidnapped a third staffer, Lorie Matthes, and to have severely injured an inmate who tried to aid the victims, McKinley Roby.

Then-warden Jeremy Larson was removed from his position after the killings and has been reassigned to the Newton Correctional Facility.

New Anamosa warden ‘looking forward to the challenge’

“I was down in Anamosa back in April,” Karberg told the Iowa Board of Corrections Friday. “I know it's not an easy assignment. I’ve never have asked for an easy assignment. I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge of coming to work there.”

Karberg most recently served as the Deputy Warden of the Mike Durfee State Prison within the South Dakota Department of Corrections. He also worked as the Site Commander of Security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, and says he has extensive experience in the security realm.

[There were] “4,000 plus employees and diplomats inside the security area. Actually I can proudly say that none were seriously injured or any casualties while I was working there,” Karberg said. “In 2011 we had an actual terrorist attack while I was working. A 20 hours siege by some Taliban. Ended up, we were able to neutralize the threats.”

After working on the review of ASP in April, Karberg says he’s already developed some ideas on how to improve security at the facility, but says he intends to begin his tenure by meeting with staff and listening to their concerns.

“So I'll be doing a lot of observing and listening to start off, to get familiarized with the facility itself, with the people that are working there," Karberg said. "Kind of want to get the finger on the pulse of how everybody's doing and how they're feeling about place. That's a big thing in my mind.”

Nicholas Lamb to head Fort Dodge, North Central prisons

Nicholas Lamb will serve as the warden of both the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City. Lamb has more than two decades of experience in state prisons, most recently in New Mexico, but with the bulk of his career spent working in Illinois prisons.

Lamb says he has worked his way up through the ranks, serving as a correctional officer, emergency response team member and training officer, among other posts, before serving as an administrator at multiple prisons. He told the Board of Corrections that his philosophy has evolved over the course of his career as he’s grown to support more vocational training and enrichment programs for incarcerated individuals.

“We can't just keep locking people up and forgetting about them. We got to give them the tools to have a chance to succeed. Because it not only benefits the offender, it benefits the general public,” Lamb told the board. “I'm a true believer in that. I've seen the changes and the differences that can make.”

Lamb says he intends to begin his time as warden by taking input from both prison staff and incarcerated individuals, to get a sense for the concerns and priorities on both sides of the bars.

“First thing I want to do when I get on the ground is do a climate survey of staff and offenders. Try to find out what their needs, issues are, with staff and offenders. A lot of times those needs or issues are similar. Could be security. Could be programs. Could be visits. Especially during these times of COVID,” Lamb said, “we have a lot of issues with mental health because of the sustained time of being locked up.”

The president of the union representing the state’s correctional officers says his member are ready to work with the new wardens to improve safety and staffing levels at the prisons, which have been consistently overcrowded and understaffed for years.

“I wish these two new wardens well as they start their new roles because the job ahead is a big one,” AFSCME Local 61 President Danny Homan said in a written statement. “From protecting the safety of those who work and live in our institutions to ensuring adequate staffing levels to making sure the right protections are in place, there is a lot on their plate. Our members stand ready to do whatever we can to make our prisons safe, and we hope they will work with us to make that happen.”

Both incoming wardens were approved unanimously by the Board of Corrections Friday, after being recommending by a department hiring committee.

A department spokesperson said their start dates have not yet been finalized, but will likely fall in the next several weeks.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter