Aug 10, 2023 - News

Iowa should pay prison program's rent, county says

Illustration of a pair of handcuffs in the shape of a dollar sign.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Gov. Kim Reynolds' administration will be asked to pay rent to Polk County because of a reorganization last month that dismantled local oversight of an Iowa prison program, Supervisors' Chairperson Tom Hockensmith tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's uncertain how it will affect Community Based Corrections (CBC) services.

  • The program supervises more than 41,000 convicted offenders on parole or probation in community settings as an alternative to incarceration.

Catch up fast: Local volunteer boards made up largely of county supervisors and residents with law enforcement backgrounds had helped manage the CBC program in each of the eight state districts for decades.

  • They were considered independent agencies with their own directors and hundreds of staff members — until last month, when Iowa compressed 37 executive-level cabinet agencies down to 16.

Zoom in: CBCs now directly answer to the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) rather than the local boards.

  • Local boards are still considered to be advisory but Hockensmith tells us they've had little or no input in months.

Driving the news: Supervisors directed county government staff last month to assess how much room CBC programs use at county facilities, including Polk's jail and justice center.

  • A request to the state for lease payments will follow the assessment, Hockensmith says.

What they're saying: Other state agencies that use Polk County facilities already pay rent.

  • A CBC lease is fairer to local taxpayers since Polk County no longer has oversight of the program, Hockensmith says.

The other side: DOC director Beth Skinner told lawmakers in February that the reorganization would save millions of dollars, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports.

  • CBC and DOC officials did not respond to our requests for comment.

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