A report presented at the Department of Corrections meeting in Sioux City today says the number of women behind bars in Iowa hit a record this past weekend. Lettie Prell, research director for the department, says there are about 790 women in prison in Iowa now, and she says the prison for women is overcrowded. Prell says projections show there’ll be 988 women in prison in Iowa in the next ten years.
Prell says in the increase in the number of female prisoners comes even though studies show women move through the system quicker than men. Prell says on average, women offenders tend to spend shorter amounts of time in prison than men, particularly in drug crimes and property offenses. Prell says the shorter stay behind bars for women is in part because the punishment appears to be working.
Prell says women tend to have lower recidivism — or re-arrest rates — than men, and therefore are a lower risk to the community than men, and don’t have to stay in jail as long. The information comes on the heels of consultant’s study that looked at prison space needs in the state and Prell says it will likely impact the future plan for prison space.
Prell says there are still women who need to be in maximum and medium security, but the "classification findings to date suggest more minimum security beds would be appropriate for a substantial proportion of our female offenders." Prell says the Department of Corrections will take all these issues into consideration as it moves ahead with a master plan for the future of the prison system.