Iowa officials say they’re paroling more inmates

CEDAR RAPIDS – Corrections officials in Iowa are taking a more aggressive approach to paroling inmates, a move they say has lowered the state’s prison population and freed up resources.

The Iowa Board of Parole told lawmakers Tuesday that the number of parolees is up by nearly 24 percent in the fiscal year 2011 to 2012. It’s on track to exceed the 4,015 paroles last year, the Gazette reported.

“There will come a point where we can’t go any lower,” said Jason Carlstrom, chairman of the Iowa Board of Parole. “We’re not there yet.”

Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin also told the Iowa House-Senate Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee that the department will keep making “data-driven” decisions when releasing low-risk probationers and parolees. That will free up resources to better supervise and treat high-risk offenders for things like substance abuse, behavioral programs and education classes.

Baldwin called it a good investment for taxpayers and one that makes prison staff feel safer. He and Carlstom said the combined strategies by corrections and parole officials maintains public safety and respects the interests of victims.

Carlstrom said the goal is not to lower the prison population but to free up resources for better oversight.

“Our job is not to just lower prison population,” Carlstrom said. “That would be easy – just open the door.”

The state currently has about 8,000 inmates incarcerated.