The number of inmates in Iowa prisons is dropping, but corrections officials expect that trend to change over the next decade. This week, Iowa’s prison population dipped to 8,454 inmates. That’s the lowest inmate count since October 2007, when Iowa had a record 8,840 men and women behind bars.
Lettie Prell, research director with the Iowa Department of Corrections, has noticed a significant drop in drug-related convictions. She credits state laws passed earlier this decade targeting methamphetamine production. Another 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. Long range forecasts call for Iowa’s prison population to once again reach record levels.
Prell says a growing number of prisoners are serving very long sentences. "That would be due to the law which reduced the amount of earned time for some violent offenders to 15%," Prell said.
"It also prohibits parole until 70% of the sentence has been served." Just 670 of Iowa’s current prison inmates are women. That’s down from a record high of 798 in May 2007.