Of the approximate 8,000 offenders currently incarcerated in Iowa’s prisons, over 95% will eventually leave prison and return to society. Reentry refers to the transition of these offenders back into the community, and reentry programs serve to assist offenders with this transition throughout their incarceration. IPI plays an active role in Iowa’s offender reentry process by providing offenders both occupational skills training and soft skills enhancement while incarcerated.
Many trade skills are available to offenders working in IPI’s shops. Depending on the shop, skills such as woodworking, welding, computer operations, warehousing, sewing, inventory, and print press operation just to name a few. But just as important as the job skills learned, offenders also acquire solid work ethic traits, such as punctuality, meeting deadlines, and working as a team with supervisors and co-workers. Offenders also gain other intangibles such as self-respect, responsibility and respect for others.
As IPI offers training to over 700 offenders daily in its programs, IPI plays a significant role in offender reentry. Finding and keeping employment is vital to a former offender’s ability to stay crime-free; an unemployed ex-offender is four times more likely to return to prison than an ex-offender who is employed. Unfortunately, finding work is one of the most difficult challenges facing ex-offenders, even in a state with low unemployment rates such as Iowa.
As important as IPI work training programs are to reducing recidivism – the likelihood that a released offender will return to prison – IPI is a self-funding agency and thus receives no appropriations from the State to operate. IPI therefore operates much like any private-sector business and relies on the sales of its products and services to provide offenders with the opportunity for Building Brighter Futures.