Iowa Corrections disputes failing grade on pandemic response

(Des Moines, IA) -- The Iowa Department of Corrections is reacting to a report by a national organization, which is critical of the department's pandemic response. The Prison Policy Initiative is giving Iowa and 36-other states a failing grade for managing the pandemic in prisons. The report says Iowa is one of 15 prison systems that has not vaccinated more than 60-percent of inmates.

Iowa Department Corrections statement:

The Iowa Department of Corrections strongly disagrees with Iowa's COVID-19 response rating proposed by the Prison Policy Initiative.

There are several precautionary and proactive actions the Iowa DOC has taken to combat COVID-19.  At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department developed varied policies and procedures used to guide decision-making regarding the pandemic. These policies and procedures have continued to evolve as new guidance and mitigation efforts are encouraged and adopted.

Guidelines for the handling of both incarcerated individuals and staff positives have been developed with guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). Aside from mitigation efforts following a known positive case, several efforts have been elevated which include but are not limited to: medial quarantine, frequent and encouraged hand washing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices, and continued social distancing efforts.

The Iowa Department of Corrections reports that approximately 76% of staff are vaccinated and 70% of those currently incarcerated are vaccinated. The Iowa DOC continues to offer free video visitation and medical co-pays are not issued for COVID-related visits. 

The Iowa DOC provides information related to COVID-19 statistics, responses, and resources on their website.

The Iowa Department of Corrections also points out the Prison Policy Initiative report lists just two states earning passing grades, as determined by PPI's methodology and scoring criteria.

In the future we hope PPI will work collaboratively with Correctional agencies across the country to develop objective scoring criteria that better addresses the unique and difficult challenges correctional agencies continue to face during the pandemic.

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