Iowa Department of Corrections officials will break ground today on a new facility for women in Waterloo. Karen Herkelman, director of the 1st Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, says the current building serves both men and women who are working to transition from prison life back into the community.
“It can be a distraction for the women to be housed with men,” Herkelman said. “It is just more difficult for them to focus on their needs and address their issues.” The mixed population is also a bit of a security issue for the staff who try to keep the men and women separated.
But, Herkelman says the primary driving force behind the new facility is the long list of offenders waiting to join the treatment program. “Once someone’s approved for release from prison, our goal is to get them released back out into the communities just as soon as possible. So, this new facility will add capacity for both men and women because we’ll be freeing up beds in our existing facility for men and we’ll be able to move them back into the community in a more timely fashion,” Herkelman said.
The new $6 million facility will have 45 beds and provide services to up to 400 female offenders. It’s being financed through the I-JOBS program and should be completed early next year. Herkelman says the facility will be located on Waterloo’s new Human Services campus which already includes the Operation Threshold agency. Expansions to other correctional facilities are underway in Sioux City and Ottumwa.