The director of the Iowa Department of Corrections is calling on lawmakers to avoid cutting funding to a pilot project designed to reduce the disproportionate number of African-Americans in the state’s prisons. John Baldwin urged Board of Corrections members Friday to contact legislators and ask them to support the "One-Stop Re-entry" program. "There are budget decisions rolling down fairly quickly from my perspective," Baldwin told the board members. "You need to make a contact and say ‘the re-entry process for us is really crucial.’ I think that nothing the (Department of Corrections) does – at this particular time – has more need than to address this issue." The pilot project, operating in Waterloo and Des Moines, received $150,000 last year. Governor Culver has included that same amount of funding in his proposed budget for this fiscal year. Sally Kreamer is leading the program in Des Moines and says they’ve seen some positive results. "We know what the formula is, we know what the things are that we need to do…a lot of that is garnishing community resources, working closely with the faith-based community and just doing things a little differently," Kreamer said. Karen Herkelman is leading the pilot project in Waterloo. She says there are currently more than 2,200 black offenders in the Iowa prison system. That number represents roughly one-quarter of the inmate population, while blacks make up less than four-percent of Iowa’s overall population. "We strongly believe that with these pilot projects and with continued resources, we can start to narrow that gap," Herkelman said. "We know (the Department of Corrections) is not the only piece of this puzzle, but we do know that we can narrow the gap and eventually eliminate that gap for successful completions of supervision, as well as those recidivism rates." According to correction officials, nearly 44% of the African-American inmates released from an Iowa prison in 2004 were back behind bars by 2007. The recidivism rate for white offenders over the same time period was just over 32%.
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