Nonprofit group looks to save abandoned Iowa prison

The Iowa State Penitentiary is on the National Register of Historical Places.

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) — A nonprofit is trying to save an empty Iowa penitentiary that dates to the 1830s as questions loom about what to do with a sprawling complex.

The Des Moines Register reports that Historic Iowa State Penitentiary is trying to save the prison that for many was only a place of misery but has played a key role in the state's history. The group is thinking of turning it into a museum and tourist attraction as they've done with prisons in other states.

The nonprofit's first step in its preservation is an environmental assessment that costs up to $180,000 to decide what buildings could be used for a historical attraction, education and even small business opportunities.

The group has asked the state to fund it, but Iowa State Penitentiary warden Patti Wachtendorf says the money isn't available.

The new prison, located nearby, opened in 2015. Currently, the state of Iowa is paying $1,000 a day to keep the utilities running and grounds secure at the old facility.