The head of the Iowa Department of Corrections believes his agency can “make do” without an increase in funding in the next state budget. But, Jerry Bartruff is hoping the governor and lawmakers can find more money for the state’s prison programs.
“We will continue to do everything we can with the money that’s allocated, but we tried to point out some pressure points that are struggles for us,” Bartruff said after speaking at a budget hearing today (Wednesday) attended by Governor Terry Branstad. Bartruff is seeking just over $380 million for the next fiscal year that begins in July. That’s the same amount the DOC was allocated last year.
Bartruff said he would welcome additional funding to offset the expiration of some federal grant money and rising medical costs. “We do have some challenges,” Bartruff said. “As our offender (population) continues to age, more and more medical costs come along with that.” There are currently just over 8,200 inmates in Iowa’s prisons, which are staffed by 2,609 guards and other employees. Bartruff said Iowa’s low unemployment rate has added to the difficulty of finding qualified correctional officers.
“We’re doing the best we can to outreach and go to job fairs,” Bartruff said. “And we’re making sure that when we do have an opportunity to hire, that we’re not just filling a body…we’ll ask for another group of people if we’re not getting the candidates we need there at that level.” Bartruff also wants more probation and parole officers in the state. There are more than 28,000 offenders in Iowa’s Community Based Corrections (CBC) program. Just 1,151 employees oversee the CBC program.
“We know there’s a certain ratio that we ought to have for probation/parole officers serving high-risk offenders. They should have about 30 people on their case load,” Bartruff said. “If you look at our case load distribution across the state right now, we aren’t meeting that ratio at all. In fact, the risk of people in CBC has gone up and our ability to redistribute the case load to make sure we have the right case load division has been a real challenge for us.”
Bartruff was appointed director of the Iowa Department of Corrections earlier this year. He replaced John Baldwin, who said he was retiring, but then became director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.