Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Slain Anamosa Correctional Officer, Robert McFarland

Protect those who protect us.  Positive change must come out of a preventable tragedy. The mobilization of the corrections community to force change within the Iowa Department of Corrections starts now.

According to the Director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, Beth Skinner, “staff safety is my main priority as director.”   Skinner has publicly claimed, “I recognize that Iowa Corrections System staff are our most important and valuable assets.”  The Iowa Department of Corrections, actions and inactions leading up to and since the murders of Robert McFarland and Lorena Schulte would say otherwise.

On March 23, 2021, Corrections Officer, Robert McFarland and Nurse, Lorena Schulte, were murdered by two violent inmates of the Anamosa State Penitentiary.  The murder weapons were two hammers owned by the Iowa Department of Corrections that should have been secured under lock and key.  How did inmates in a medium-maximum security prison obtain deadly weapons, transport them across a prison facility undetected, and catch two unsuspecting staff by surprise?  Who are the individuals responsible for this abysmal breakdown in security? To date, these questions remain unanswered by the State of Iowa.

If the safety of Iowa Corrections System staff were a true priority of the Department, ownership and accountability for the deaths of Officer McFarland and Nurse Schulte would have been timely and unqualified.  Answers to how, why, and who was responsible, would have been direct and uncompromising.  Consequences for those responsible would have been swift, meaningful and public.  Three years later though, the State of Iowa continues to duck and deflect.

Respects have been paid, condolences have been given, memorials have been built, but the Iowa Department of Corrections still remains a dangerous and volatile environment.  Tragically, the Iowa Department of Corrections is even more dangerous than it was prior to the murders.  Since 2021, Iowa’s prison population has increased to a point where it is overcapacity, even by the Iowa Department of Corrections statistics, by 18%.  The Department of Corrections continues to be woefully and dangerously understaffed.  These deficiencies have real consequences.  In 2022, serious injuries to staff members more than doubled.  In 2023, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections Annual Report, safety violations MORE THAN DOUBLED . Despite these failures, the leadership of the Iowa Department of Corrections remains unchanged and unaccountable.

Embarrassingly, much like the security deficiencies within the IDOC, the claims to the State of Iowa made by Officer McFarland’s wife and surviving son, for his wrongful death, sat idle and ignored by the State of Iowa for almost an entire year.  The family received no meaningful response to their claims. The State sat silent as their Department of Corrections became an increasingly dangerous place to work.  The McFarland family refuses to allow the legacy of Officer McFarland to be  that of an unfortunate victim.  Instead, they have chosen to force transparency and meaningful change upon a Department.  They do so by taking the fight directly to the Iowa Department of Corrections

On April 9, 2024, Officer McFarland’s wife and surviving son filed their lawsuit against the State of Iowa for the wrongful death of Officer McFarland.  The lawsuit details the breakdown in security and systemic deficiencies that lead to Officer McFarland and Nurse Schulte’s’ murders.  Good and honest people had to be named in the lawsuit because of Iowa’s legal technicalities.  The State of Iowa will ultimately be substituted as the sole defendant and all individual’s with knowledge of how and why these preventable murders took place will be afforded the opportunity to speak the truth.

Information does not need to be saved for the formal legal proceedings.  GRL Law has created tip line to facilitate an exhaustive information gathering process to fully and completely expose the IDOC’s deficiencies.  GRL Law will follow up on every tip and every lead we are provided.  Information may also be submitted via email to

The IDOC is in shambles.  There is a growing frustration at the failures of leadership, lack of meaningful action, and continued disregard for the welfare and safety of front-line employees.  The only way to fix this system is by meaningful action.  With every voice speaking out, with every beam of light directed into the darkest of corners, momentum will build to a point where meaningful changes will occur.   A single voice can be silenced.  A chorus however, rings from the rafters for all to hear.  The time to speak out is now.  We as a community owe it to the men and women who enter the walls of Iowa’s prisons to protect us all from those deemed too dangerous to live within our communities.  Protect those who protect us!

Special thanks to AFSCME Iowa Council 61 for their solidarity and support and to the KCCI, KCRG, Des Moines Register, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette for their work reporting on these issues.