Growing with Changing Times

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With age comes experience, and with experience comes confidence. Iowa Prison Industries has faced many challenges during its lifetime, but the thing that remains is its pride in the work it provides and produces.

Iowa Prison Industries was built on a principle that was established in 1839--to provide work for Iowa’s incarcerated individuals. IPI continued to function in this way over several decades only because of its ability to adapt to the changing times. Industries have come and gone, but IPI still pushes forward and explores new ways to provide meaningful work opportunities for incarcerated individuals.

Looking back at some moments in IPI’s history reveals that the steadfast participation of staff and supporters is what enabled IPI to grow, which is still the case today. The timeline below outlines the challenges and opportunities for growth that IPI has encountered during its existence. It also provides encouragement for the future of IPI as it serves as a reminder that this business can prevail in changing times.

  • 1841 - Legislation adopted allowing inmate labor to be leased to outside manufacturers
  • By 1900 - Anamosa’s first inmate labor contract was signed to manufacture wooden butter tubs
  • 1915 - Inmate labor leasing to private companies is abolished
  • 1918 - Last inmate leasing contract expires and the State appropriates $275,000 for the prisons to set up their own industries
  • 1922 - Large fire destroys the Chair & Furniture Factory at Fort Madison
  • 1924 - Legislature adopts code requiring public agencies to purchase available items from prison industries
  • 1925 - License plate production begins in Anamosa
  • 1927 - Soap factory opens in Anamosa
  • 1928 - A dairy herd from a Prison farm produced the highest average production of a state-owned herd in the United States
  • 1934 - Hawes-Cooper Act takes effect that restricts the sales of inmate goods
  • 1940 - Inmate wages average 15 cents per day
  • 1943 - The War Production Board of the Federal Government awards Anamosa the National Service Flag
  • By 1960s - Anamosa and Fort Madison provided dry cleaning services to State employees
  • 1960-1980 - The Tire Division at Anamosa supplied tire recapping services
  • 1962 - Industries Director William Burke receives the “Man of the Year for 1962” award given by the American Corrections Association for his contribution to corrections in the US and Iowa
  • 1963 - A riot at Anamosa damages most of IPI’s shops with the Print Shop receiving the most damage
  • During 1970s - Inmates were trained in meat cutting
  • 1977 - The Legislature establishes a seven member State Prison Industries Advisory Board
  • 1983 - Custom Wood opens at Anamosa
  • 1984 - IPI reaches $10 million in sales
  • 1999 - IPI constructs a factory at ICIW in Mitchellville
  • 2002 - Central Canteen opens at Newton
  • 2003 - IPI reaches $15 million in sales
  • 2005 - Anamosa introduces Air Filters product line
  • 2007 - IPI reaches $20 million in sales, doubling sales in just 13 years
  • 2009 - Permanent IPI Showroom & Sales Office opens just two blocks from the Capitol Complex
  • 2013 - IPI employs an average of 573.2 incarcerated individuals and provides 1,192,132 hours of inmate training
  • 2015 - New Iowa State Penitentiary opens at Fort Madison, Launch of Braille on Demand operation for Iowa's K-12 schools, Opened Fort Dodge Textiles for jean production, IPI began implementing Apprenticeship Programs to provide an on-the-job training curriculum for inmates
  • 2016 - IPI Shops began a journey to adopt a lean manufacturing culture
  • 2017 - IPI was measured to reduce recidivism by 8 percent and save taxpayers and victims $4.1 million

For a more detailed history of Iowa Prison Industries, read our Then & Now Annual Report.

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