How 36 Chairs Represent IPI's Recidivism Rate

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On Wednesday November 1, IPI staff from across Iowa attended the annual Iowa Prison Industries training conference. The training lasted all day and included multiple presentations from staff members about Lean Manufacturing, innovation, efficiency and safety in IPI shops.

When everyone first arrived at the training, there was a cluster of chairs set up on the left side of the room with pieces of paper taped on them saying “reserved.” Staff had no idea who the chairs were reserved for until Dan Clark, the IPI Director, welcomed them to the conference and opened the floor for the day.

Clark explained how Iowa and a variety of other states used a tool developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation that identifies programs that benefit society and by how much. It is referred to as the “Results First” initiative and helps the Department of Corrections examine data.

What this data showed …

The IPI program was measured by this tool to reveal just how much of a difference the work-training program was making. IPI was measured to reduce recidivism by 8 percent and save taxpayers and victims $4.1 million!

That extra 8 percent works out to be about 36 individuals who did not return to prison thanks to the hard work and opportunities provided by IPI staff each day. Those are 36 individuals who did not murder someone, sell drugs to someone, rob or burglarize someone, etc. It is likely that these 36 individuals were able to get jobs and become productive members of society. IPI gave those 36 individuals a second chance.

IPI also gave the victims of those 36 individuals a better life. Of the $4.1 million saved, $2.9 million was estimated to be savings by victims for crimes that thankfully never occurred. Those victims did not have to pay for property damages, lost wages or medical costs.

The 36 chairs reserved for the 36 individuals were an excellent reminder of why IPI staff works as hard as they do. IPI staff members were able to see those empty chairs as a metaphor for the difference they are making in the wellbeing of Iowa’s citizens.

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