Iowa’s prison population has dropped by more than 350-inmates over the past two fiscal years. The Iowa Department of Corrections has released prison admission and release figures for fiscal 2009. They show Iowa prisons housed 8,455 inmates on June 30. That’s down from a record high of 8,840 in October 2007.
Iowa Corrections Research Director Lettie Prell told Radio Iowa earlier this month that one factor in the prison population decline is a shift in demographics. "Our prison population is not getting younger and more violent, it is getting older and sicker," Prell said.
When they’re released, Prell says those older convicted criminals are less likely to re-offend and return to prison. Prell has also noticed a significant drop in drug-related convictions.
She credits state laws passed earlier this decade targeting methamphetamine production. Long range forecasts call for Iowa’s prison population to once again reach record levels within a decade. Iowa lawmakers recently passed tougher sentencing standards for violent offenders and sex-offenders, forcing those inmates to serve longer prison terms.