Stakeholders are harshly criticizing Iowa’s plan to dismantle its locally-run Community Based Corrections system, according to a Feb. 27 report in Axios.
For more than 40 years, the system has provided an alternative to incarceration for less serious offenders, and given local officials oversight of thousands returning from prisons to communities on parole or probation.
The eight independent Community Based Corrections agencies currently oversee about 41,200 people, in contrast to the 7,900 held in Iowa’s prisons, reported Axios.
A board made up of about 20 volunteers governs each of the judicial districts, setting policies, providing budget input and overseeing operations. Board members include judges, supervisors and other citizens. A director and hundreds of volunteers serve under the board.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has asked legislators to make the local boards advisory councils only, with directors reporting directly to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
The Reynolds administration says that the move will streamline the system and save millions of dollars annually. A Virginia-based consultant estimates that the annual savings at about $3 million.
Department of Corrections Director Beth Skinner explained to legislators that Community Based Corrections directors should report to her department, rather than to local boards, because the bulk of their funding comes from the state.
But the plan received universal condemnation from local advocates, current and former board members, and a former Department of Corrections district director, who predict that the plan will result in more Iowans in prison.
In February, critics of the plan — mostly Community Based Corrections board members — participated in an online meeting with Skinner. No one in the meeting spoke in favor of the plan.
Story County Supervisor Linda Murken, a former judicial district director of the Department of Corrections, addressed Skinner, “If you thought something was broken, why haven’t you come to us as the boards of these agencies?”
Some criticized the plan for lack of details. County Supervisor Ann McDonough expressed concerns that the plan is a step towards privatizing corrections services.
Dozens of the participants left the meeting early when Skinner declined to answer questions.