Recidivism in Iowa drops for a third year in a row

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 10:14 PM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (Gray Iowa Capitol Bureau) - This year, fewer people are returning to prison after they’re released. The Iowa Department of Corrections says the recidivism rate dropped 2.7 percent.

Mike Cervantes, who works with Living Beyond the Bars, a statewide nonprofit that helps people after prison, applauds the news. “I think it’s always good news when recidivism drops. I mean, what that means is that fewer crimes are being committed in the communities and it also means that as people leave prison, they’re not going back to the things that got them there in the first place. They’re finding positive ways to move forward in their lives,” Cervantes said

Cervantes says in the last few years, the Iowa Department of Corrections has been more open to working with organizations like his. “We’re seeing much more of a collaborative effort between the prisons, community corrections, and the organizations across the state,” Cervantes said.

While Cervantes applauds the recidivism rate dropping, he says the state can do more, specifically with addiction treatment and housing. “In particular, it’d be great if while a person’s in prison, if they could apply for housing assistance and other programs before they get out. What happens too often is a person has to be homeless or has to really be struggling before they can apply for those things,” Cervantes said.

Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo is also helping former inmates in the Cedar Valley. Hawkeye can help them get commercial drivers licenses, and forklift and welding certifications.

Belle Fleischhacker says she most often hears from inmates who don’t think they can get good jobs due to their criminal history. “Well, hey, you might actually be able to. Let’s sit down and talk about it. So, kind of getting them through “Hey, I didn’t think I could do this but I did it and now, you know, I’m making $50,000 plus a year’,” Fleischhacker said.

Hawkeye’s programs are free. “They don’t really believe that they don’t have to pay and I’m like no because you’re involved with corrections I’m able to cover the cost,” Fleischhacker said.

Governor Kim Reynolds says recidivism will continue to drop due to her realignment bill. That bill put Community Corrections - which oversees probation and parole under the direction of the Department of Corrections.

We reached out to the Iowa Department of Corrections for an interview but did not hear back.