Corrections Department director, John Baldwin.

Corrections Department director, John Baldwin.

The head of the Iowa Department of Corrections says the rate of repeat offenders among African-Americans in Iowa prisons has steadily fallen over the last 14 years. John Baldwin says giving parolees meaningful work skills is critical to keeping them from returning to prison.

“We’ve worked really hard at trying to make sure we deal with the disproportionate share of African-Americans in prison. What we work on is to have rehabilitation skills, job skills, so when people leave us, they don’t come back to us,” Baldwin said.

The improving rate for African-Americans has helped bring the down the overall recidivism rate in Iowa prisons. “For the first time in Iowa history it has dropped below 30-percent. We’re at 29.7-percent,” Baldwin said. “We are the only state in America where we can say that recidivism for African-Americans and whites is exactly the same.”

Fourteen years ago, Iowa’s recidivism rate was 45-percent. Baldwin said it’s especially significant that recidivism is down at the same time paroles are on the rise.