The leader of the Iowa Department of Corrections says the number of people who have been released from prisons and committed another crime in the last three years has dropped by almost one percent.
Department director Beth Skinner says it’s a breakthrough after the increases in recidivism have been slowing. She says it is the first decline in recidivism they’ve seen in six years. Skinner tells Radio Iowa the results come out of numerous efforts to make a change in the individuals who come to the state’s prisons.
“It’s called building social and human capital — we have to address the reasons why people came into the system in the first place,” according to Skinner. “And we know that there’s major risk factors that drive people into criminal behavior. And that has been established in research for over 30 years.”
She says part of the program is to help prisoners deal with their negatives. “Such as antisocial behavior, impulse control, deficits in employment, in school, or poor leisure activities — things such as that that we can find our through a risk assessment that we can target our resources to reduce that risk,” Skinner says. She says they also try to build on the person’s positives — like family support — which can help them on the outside.
“Historically mostly we just focus on deficits, like what’s wrong, and we have to do that, because we do need to address those issues that bring people to us and back to use again,” Skinner explains. “But at the same time, we also need to be building these protective factors that help mitigate that risk.”
Skinner says building up all these things makes the inmates more attractive to employers once they get released. “What we’re finding is that more and more we are developing a pipeline between our prisons and local employers who know there is such a high demand in some of these skilled fields that they are actually asking for these people before they even get out of prison,” she says.
Skinner says the employers see the benefit in the prisoners who have been given job and life training. “They know they are going to show up, they know they have certified skills in high-demand areas. They’re learning soft skills by coming to work every day and things like that,” Skinner says. “It’s a really great opportunity with us here at our institutions — and then what’s available on the outside for these individuals.”
The three-year recidivism rate was 38.7% — down .9%.