Around 96 percent of the men and women in Iowa’s prisons will eventually be released and corrections officials are hoping a federal grant will help them reduce the number of inmates who return to prison.
Beth Skinner is the Recidivism Reduction Coordinator with the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC). She came to Iowa from New York earlier this year, shortly after the DOC was awarded a $3 million Second Chance Act grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“We’re looking at areas we’ve done work in and kind of upgrading them, enhancing them, and building upon that to reduce recidivism,” Skinner said. Last year, Iowa’s prison recidivism rate dropped to 29.7 percent. That’s down from 45 percent 15 years ago. Iowa’s prisons are currently holding 8,267 inmates. That’s more than 13 percent over the design capacity of the facilities.
Skinner is certain the recidivism rate can be further reduced, ultimately decreasing the overall prison population. “We are going to be looking at how we do business. We’re going to be looking at the practices we use and the programs we use with offenders. We’re going to be ensuring that we’re using evidence-based practices, practices that we know reduce recidivism. So, of course we’re going to make an impact on that (the overall prison population),” Skinner said.
The $3 million grant from the DOJ is spread out over three years. Skinner delivered an update on the program before an Iowa Board of Corrections meeting today in Fort Dodge.