The leader of Iowa’s prison system today outlined his goals for the agency over the next four years.

Iowa Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin says one of his top priorities is to reduce the offender return rate to prison – which is currently just under 32%.

“We used to be, about 12 years ago, at 44% and our goal is drive it down to 25%,” Baldwin said. He talked about the 2012-2016 Strategic Plan during a meeting of the Iowa Board of Corrections this morning.

Baldwin said reducing the recidivism rate will involve a renewed focus on making sure offenders are in the right facilities and programs.

“That will of course save a lot of money, but more importantly it will keep people from cycling through the criminal justice system and that’s really our big goal,” Baldwin said. Iowa’s prisons currently house just under 8,500 inmates, while the population of the state’s Community Based Corrections (CBC) system stands at 30,800.

Baldwin is hoping to reduce the prison population to the 7,500-7,800 range within the next few years. The strategic plan calls for dropping the CBC population to roughly 25,000. “We really need to make sure the people who come to us deserve to come to us and we have a solution to help them not come back to us,” Baldwin said.

“We would like to see both of our populations drop and we think we can do that safely. Our goal is to look at those people who come to us in a way that…how can we help them return (to the general population) safely?” Two new prisons are under construction in Iowa.

A nearly 900 bed women’s prison in Mitchellville and an 800 bed maximum security prison in Fort Madison will replace existing facilities in those cities.