Iowa’s falling prison population not necessarily a good thing

From: Iowa Watchdog

Jan. 18th 2013

By Graham Gillette | Special Contributor to Iowa Watchdog

DES MOINES — John Baldwin, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, recently crowed in an email to colleagues at the Iowa Board of Parole about a reduction in the state’s prison population.
Shortly after Republican Gov. Terry Branstad took office, a record 9,009 people were locked up in Iowa’s prisons, according to Baldwin. Within 18 months, that number had fallen to 8,268 inmates — a more than 8 percent decrease.

Moving felons from prison to parole is good for Baldwin’s budget, but is it good for Iowa?

Iowa residential treatment programs fall short in funding to run expanded facilities.
Baldwin credits the decline in prisoners to the now close working relationship between the department and parole board. Part of the prison boom in 2011 came when officials from both groups were more likely to butt heads in deciding whether to put prisoners on limited-release lock-up. That recently changed, and they agree in nine out of every 10 cases.

I’m all for cooperation, but one needs to closely examine what happens to released inmates when determining if such an agreement is in society’s best interests.

Read the rest here: http://watchdog.org/66962/ia-prisons/

Expansion at women’s prison in Mitchellville

From: Chicago Tribune

MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa —
Gov. Chet Culver and officials have broken ground on a $68 million expansion and renovation at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville.

When the project is completed in January 2013, the prison will have 888 beds. The prison’s current capacity is 445, but 564 inmates were housed there as of the groundbreaking on Thursday.

Warden Patti Wachtendorf says that when the renovation is complete, the Mitchellville facility will be the only prison that houses women in Iowa. Two other prisons in Mount Pleasant and Oakdale currently house female inmates.