Prison System in Iowa Showing Positive Improvement

The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) reports that the three-year recidivism rate for FY2023 is 34.3%; or 2.7% lower than the recidivism rate observed in FY2022. These numbers show three consecutive years of reduction in the systems overall recidivism rate.

Recidivism can be defined in a multitude of ways. Generally, recidivism is defined as the likelihood that an individual “relapse[s] into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention from a previous crime.”  In layman terms, recidivism is an individual who is released from an Iowa prison and then re-incarcerated for any reason, within three years.

Iowa’s rate of 34.3% is currently just under the national average of 37%. It has a long way to go to beat number one South Carolina, which has 21% but is much lower than New Mexico, which is less than a point shy of 50%.

“Three consecutive years of reducing Iowa’s recidivism rate is a clear indicator that what we’re doing in our correctional system is working,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds. “And now that community-based corrections have been placed under the purview of the IDOC, I’m confident our alignment efforts will produce even greater results. I’d like to thank IDOC staff for all they do to keep Iowa safe, and I have no doubt they will continue to meet their mission of creating opportunities for safer communities.”

“Our state’s recidivism rate is a key indicator in determining if what we’re doing is having the intended impact,” IDOC Director Beth Skinner said. “Not only have we lowered our recidivism rate for three consecutive years, in FY23 we saw our biggest reduction yet. This is a department-wide effort and these efforts are producing outcomes that positively impact public safety. I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication of our staff in keeping Iowa communities safe.”

There are a number of department wide strategies that contributed to reducing the recidivism rate, which includes but are not limited to:

  • Prioritizing institutional and community-based treatment programs for high-risk individuals
  • Providing institutional and community-based treatment programs that are evidence-based
  • Improved and aligned reentry practices
  • Increased access to education opportunities
  • Increased access to apprenticeship programs and job skills training


Recidivism Rate by State