Beth Skinner

The Iowa Board of Parole has approved 482 inmates for early release from the state’s prisons to reduce overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another 90 state prison inmates are approved for future release according to Iowa Department of Corrections director Beth Skinner.

“It’s critical each of these have safe, sustainable housing before they are released,” Skinner said today during the governor’s daily news conference. “Additionally, we are working closely with community based corrections to safely parole those that have been approved back into the community.”

A month ago, the state prison system was at 22 percent over design capacity.

“We are working closely with the Board of Parole, which has the authority to release those who would likely success in a community setting,” Skinner said. “Together our agencies are working to find a balance of good public safety and safety of the institutions for our staff and those incarcerated.”

Over the weekend, officials announced an inmate transferred into the state prison system on Thursday had tested positive for COVID-19, but had never been in the general population and was in quarantine. Earlier this month a correctional officer working at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville had tested positive for the virus. Today, Skinner announced a second officer who had been around that person has also tested positive .

“The good news for the facility is this team member has not been at work since April 9,” Skinner said. “Because they started staying home before ever experiencing symptoms, we do not believe there was any exposure by inmates or staff to this individual.”

All staff and inmates at the Coralville facility are now required to wear face masks as a precaution and temperatures are being taken twice daily to check for fever. The state agency is asking county officials to keep any inmate with COVID-19 quarantined in the county jail and to not transfer them into the state prison system.

“We ask sheriffs to suspend admissions and revocations at this time,” Skinner added, “and this is to prevent the unnecessary exposure to jail inmates and reduce the likelihood of another opportunity to introduce COVID-19 into our prisons.”

No visitors have been allowed inside the state prisons since March 14th and inmates on work crews are no longer allowed to work outside of prison property.