Justice Reinvestment in Iowa

In 2021, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Iowa to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.

The Problem

Like many states responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa criminal justice stakeholders implemented changes to maintain public health and safety. These efforts were reflected in the following changes in the state’s criminal justice trends:

  • Initial decreases in the state prison population between March and September 2020, followed by a slow rebound to early 2020 levels that continues to keep facilities over capacity
  • Increases in the community-based corrections (CBC) population, which is now larger than it was before the pandemic
  • Supervision revocations—especially those due to new arrests—that still account for more than half of all prison admissions

Nearly two years into the pandemic, state leaders in Iowa launched a bipartisan, interbranch effort to answer the following questions:

  1. Have recent changes that were implemented in response to the pandemic had a positive, negative, or neutral impact on public safety and CBC operations?
  2. Should IDOC and CBC agencies continue or enhance these new procedures to increase the ability of staff to successfully supervise individuals in the community?
  3. Do IDOC and CBC need any specific resources or better procedures (training, technology, treatment services, etc.) to successfully supervise individuals in the community?
  4. To maximize potential benefits and resources, what data-driven recommendations (administrative or legislative) may be needed to improve clients’ chances of success in the community?

How JRI Helped

In 2021, state leaders requested support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to use the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to answer the questions above. As public-private partners in the federal JRI program, BJA and Pew approved Iowa state leaders’ request and asked the CSG Justice Center to provide intensive technical assistance.

With guidance and oversight from Iowa’s Oversight Committee on Justice Reinvestment, CSG Justice Center staff collected and analyzed data on public safety impacts and racial disproportionalities within the state’s community-based corrections system and conducted a comprehensive assessment of community supervision practices. In the fall of 2022, agency leaders reviewed the results, which indicated that clients can be safely managed in the community while limiting revocation to people who pose a public safety risk. CSG Justice Center staff recommended legislative and administrative policy updates that would further strengthen the state’s community supervision system and ensure that officers have the necessary tools to effectively supervise individuals in the community.