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Prison Population Forecast Report. The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning Division (CJJPD) of the Department of Human Rights released its report entitled, “Iowa’s Prison Population Forecast FY 2010ñ FY 2020.” The Report indicates if current offender behaviors and justice system trends, policies, and practices remain unchanged, the prison population will be approximately 10,409 inmates by June 30, 2020, an increase of 21.0% over the next ten years. The female population is expected to increase by 179 offenders (25.3%) while the male population is expected to increase by 1,628 offenders (20.6%). Prison Capacity. By FY 2020 and without any additional prison beds, overcrowding is expected to reach 135.8% of design capacity. This figure is based on the assumption that the additional beds authorized during the 2008 Legislative Session for Fort Madison and Mitchellville will be operating by FY 2020. If the
population reaches 10,409 inmates, two additional 800-bed prisons will need to be built, in addition to the expansions authorized at Fort Madison and Mitchellville. If two additional prisons are built over the next decade, projected design capacity will be 9,266 beds with a projected population of 10,409 offenders; the prison system would be operating at 112.3% of capacity. The cost of one 800-bed prison with a mix of medium and minimum custody levels is approximately $85.0 million in construction costs; construction of
two such prisons would be approximately $170.0 million. Operating costs are estimated to be at least $30.0 million annually per prison.

Report Findings

The forecast predicts the prison population will increase through the end of FY 2011, with a 3.9% increase in the year-end population compared to FY 2010. The Report findings include:

– A continuing decrease in the number of offenders released to supervision, with an accompanying increase in the average length of stay in prison before being released for the first time, increases the population. Parole releases peaked at 2,307 in FY 2006, and have decreased steadily for each of thelast four years.

– The number of Class B felons in the prison system is expected to increase over the next 10 years. Many of these offenders are expected to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Prison commitments for drug offenses increased in FY 2010 after four years of decline.

– The impact of special sentence revocations has continued to be greater than expected. Sex offenders serve their original sentence, and then must serve a special sentence of either 10 years orlifetime supervision. Offenders are being revoked to prison from the special sentence at a higher rate than originally expected. This factor increases the population.

– New court commitments (new court-ordered commitments and probation revocations) increased in FY 2010 after decreasing for each of the last three years.

– Dispositions of felony filings have decreased by 27.0% since FY 2003 (when it peaked at 31,149). However, felony convictions remained relatively stable during that period.

– Prison commitments for offenders with drug offenses as the lead offense increased in FY 2010, while they had decreased for each of the last five years. Approximately 44.0% of drug offenders admitted to prison in FY 2010 had a conviction related to methamphetamine, amphetamine, or a precursor.

– Iowa has a high rate of imprisonment of African Americans. Methamphetamine admissions are primarily white offenders while cocaine admissions are primarily black offenders. Methamphetamine admissions increased by 54 (whites accounted for 48) and black cocaine admissions decreased from 111 to 102. The slight increase in black drug admissions in FY 2010 was primarily due to increasing marijuana convictions.

– Iowa prisons will have a greater number of sex offenders in future years.

– The prison population is aging and this may have a significant fiscal impact in the future for health related expenses.

– The number of offenders released due to expiration of sentence (with no community supervision) has increased steadily since FY 2004. There were 1,323 releases due to expiration of sentence in FY 2010, an increase of 46.3% compared to FY 2000. The increase is due to several factors, including the offenders’ refusal of parole, the Board of Parole’s desire to incapacitate dangerous offenders, and previous failures on parole or work release. Approximately 40.0% of offenders released due to expiration of sentence had been revoked from a previous supervised release.

– The number of offenders supervised by Community-Based Corrections (CBC) on probation has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years. However, the number of probationers revoked to prison has increased almost 38.0% over the same period. This increase coincides with a decrease in new direct court commitments to prison. It appears that more offenders are being granted a chance
at supervision in the community rather than being directly sentenced to prison.

The CJJPD’s report provides a summary of initiatives that may reduce the projected prison population. These include:

– To the extent the Public Safety Advisory Board proposes changes to criminal law and processes, there may be opportunities for a more efficient justice system.

– Improved communication between the DOC and the Board of Parole. The Board’s expectations for offender treatment should be communicated early in an offender’s sentence, so the DOC may provide those treatment services before the offender is eligible for parole.

– The DOC’s emphasis on evidence-based practices and offender re-entry may decrease the rate of
return to prison.

– Sentencing changes or fewer direct court commitments to prison. Funding treatment at the community level and allocating funds to the CBC District Departments may serve as alternatives to incarceration.

– Examine Iowa’s sentencing policies and practices for drug offenses. There is a possibility that offenders in prison may receive substance abuse treatment safely in a community-based setting. Drug courts may divert some offenders from prison.

The full report is available at:

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