In March, two inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa killed a prison guard and nurse during an attempted escape. Inmates Michael Dutcher (28) and Thomas Woodard (39) were charged with first-degree murder, attempted-murder, and second-degree kidnapping in the deaths of nurse Lorena Schulte (50) and correctional officer Robert McFarland (46). Dental assistant Lori Mathis was also held hostage during the incident, but escaped unharmed.

Michael Dutcher (L) and Thomas Woodard (R)

“Dutcher and Woodard attempted to escape by shattering glass in the break room within the infirmary,” FOX NEWS reports Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Richard Rahn as saying. “By doing so, that allowed them access to the bars, and they then took a grinder in an attempt to grind away the bars in hopes to be able to escape through the window.”

The other inmates were so impacted by the murders, that when a fund was created in support of the victims’ families, over $11,000 in donations have poured in from inmates in all nine of Iowa’s prisons.

“What that says to me, is that the people who are incarcerated in prison, that I have contact with … they are very caring people, they feel awful about what happened, and their hearts go out to these family members,” said Sue Hutchins, a prisoner advocate.

Hutchins founded a nonprofit she calls Living Beyond the Bars, which provides services and support to incarcerated individuals preparing to reenter society. Not only did inmates step up financially, but some even put their own lives in danger in an attempt to rescue Schulte and McFarland. McKinley Roby is an Anamosa inmate who was seriously injured when he stepped in to intervene in the attacks, suffering multiple skull fractures.

Inmates have the opportunity to earn money while incarcerated through various work programs, with wages ranging from $0.27 to $1.29 according to USA TODAY. It is not uncommon for inmates to donate their meager earnings to charitable causes such as Habitat for Humanity.

Community members place flowers and other gifts outside of the Anamosa State Prison in honor of two prison workers who were killed during an attempted escape on March 23, 2021

Anamosa inmates had positive sentiments about the victims of the March 23 murders, with inmate David Bradford stating that “They were some of the best people around there.”

Eddie Walker is a former inmate of the facility and was released in 2019, and said that both Schulte and McFarland were great people, and that “They deserved to go home and continue their life.”

Dutcher has been an inmate at the prison since 2015, facing a 42-year sentence for robbery. Woodard was incarcerated in 2017 for robbery and was scheduled to be released in 2029. Both have both pleaded not guilty and are awaiting a trial date.

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