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(The Center Square) – Iowa’s rate of recidivism from prisons decreased in fiscal year 2021 for the first time since 2014, after years of recidivism rate increases.

The Iowa Department of Corrections reported in a news release Sept. 14 that the recidivism rate, which the state defines as an individual’s “return to prison within three-years following a previous term of incarceration,” for fiscal year 2021 was 38.7%, which is .9% lower than the rate in fiscal year 2020. It was 38.8% in fiscal year 2019, according to a department factsheet.

IDC Research Director Sarah Fineran told The Center Square Sept. 16. that recidivism can be “quite costly” for states.

“Tax payers incur direct costs to support imprisonment, court proceedings, and justice personnel,” she said. “Similarly, victimization can oftentimes be physically, emotionally, and mentally traumatic. There are no direct impacts to state funding as a result of the recidivism reduction at this point in time, however, it is important to note recidivism reduction efforts have far and wide reaching implications.”

Recidivism rate for past fiscal years:

  • 2021: 38.7%
  • 2020: 39.6%
  • 2019: 38.8%
  • 2018: 37.8%
  • 2017: 35.4%
  • 2016: 34.2%
  • 2015: 31.9%
  • 2014: 29.8%

“In recent years, while we have observed increases in recidivism, that rate of increase appeared to slow as Department-wide efforts were implemented, practiced, and sustained,” Iowa Department of Corrections Director Beth Skinner said in the release. “The recidivism reduction observed during FY21 are indications these efforts are working to achieve our Department’s unified goals to improve reentry and community safety.”

Those include “prioritizing institutional and community-based treatment for high risk individuals,” “utilizing evidence-based programs,” “improved and aligned reentry practices,” “increased access to education and educational opportunities,” “building capacity within apprenticeship programs,” “training staff in core correctional practices (CCP),” and “enhanced case management training.”

The IDC reported in its June 2021 quarterly fact sheet that the per person, per day cost in fiscal year 2021 was $94.23 in prison institutions, $95.83 in residential facilities, and $5.38 on parole. Ten percent of sentences being served are for life; 32% are sentences of 10 to 20 years; 25% are for 20 to 40 years; 18% are for 5 to 10 years; and 11% are for “more than 40 years.”

The department announced Sept. 16 that Nick Crawford will become its new communications director. Former director Cord Overton left when he became chief of staff earlier this year for Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford.