An annual report released Tuesday projects Iowa’s prison population will grow by 30 percent over the next decade if crime trends continue and justice system policies remain in place.
Steve Michael is administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning.
“This last year, we had more admissions than releases and that’s really the reason we’re projecting the increase,” Michael said. Nearly 250 more inmates were admitted to Iowa prisons in fiscal year 2016 compared to 2015.
While the forecast suggests Iowa’s prison population could grow to 10,648 inmates by 2026, Michael notes there are “major changes” in Iowa’s criminal justice system that were not taken into account with this projection.
“For example, the criminal justice reform bill that was passed during the last legislative session, which reduced mandatory minimum (sentences) for second-degree robbery and created a new robbery third-degree, which does not have a mandatory minimum,” Michael said. That bill was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad and took effect on July 1.
“So, it’ll probably be five years out before we see the benefit of that,” Michael said. The report shows Iowa’s prison population has dropped since 2011. Iowa’s prisons held a record high 9,009 inmates in April of 2011. On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Corrections reported 8,312 inmates were being housed in nine prisons around the state.