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A closer look: 3 big issues facing Iowa Department of Corrections

Corrections leaders recently shared the issues they're trying to address in a 'new normal.'

IOWA, USA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact and staying home if you are sick as main areas of focus for prevention and containment of COVID-19.

The Iowa Department of Corrections is not only dealing with inmates and staff contracting COVID-19, they're also trying to handle overcrowding at facilities.

Recently, the director of the Iowa DOC, Dr. Beth Skinner, provided an update about her department.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Overcrowding still an issue

The Legislative Services Agency recently put out a fiscal update on the DOC. The department's director, Dr. Beth Skinner, said the DOC has reduced its total population by pausing admission into its facilities.

This is being done as part of its mitigation strategy to contain COVID-19, officials said.

Dr. Skinner said right now, as part of those efforts, facilities are currently at 8.8% capacity. That is down from 22% capacity from March. 

As of July 10, the inmate population stands at 7,541. 

In addition, through a partnership between the DOC and the Board of Parole, 2,194 eligible offenders have been released. Of those, 1,346 are on parole and 355 are on work release. 

4,800 reviews have been conducted.

RELATED: Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility inmate tests positive for COVID-19

COVID-19 cases in corrections facilities

Local 5 has previously looked into the growth of COVID-19 cases in Webster County, an increase tied to more inmates contracting the virus at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility (FDCF).

As of July 16, a total of 189 inmates at DOC facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. Of those, 187 are at FDFC.

This is a major jump from a Sunday update, when 119 inmates had tested positive.

By comparison, on July 6, the number of positive inmates at FDCF was 32. 

Of the 26 DOC staffers who have tested positive for coronavirus, 16 are from FDCF.

RELATED: What's behind the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Webster County?

Fixing racial disparities at DOC facilities 

Within the next week, Iowa DOC said they are planning to sign off on a racial disparity report.

Leaders said the data was compiled over a couple of years, and will help identify any inequality within the facilities. 

Read the full meeting minutes from the Legislative Services Agency below:

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RELATED: COVID-19 in Iowa by the numbers: State reports 607 additional cases, 18 more deaths