Iowa has an incarceration rate of 582 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Iowa and why.
Jump to COVID-19 data.
18,000 people from Iowa are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Iowa is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 40,000 different people are booked into local jails in Iowa.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
Also see these Iowa graphs:
Today, Iowa’s incarceration rates stand out internationally
In the U.S., incarceration extends beyond prisons and local jails to include other systems of confinement. The U.S. and state incarceration rates in this graph include people held by these other parts of the justice system, so they may be slightly higher than the commonly reported incarceration rates that only include prisons and jails. Details on the data are available in States of Incarceration: The Global Context. We also have a version of this graph focusing on the incarceration of women.
People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails
See also our detailed graphs about Whites,
in Iowa prisons and jails.
Iowa's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
Data on COVID-19 in Iowa jails and prisons
We gave Iowa a failing grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:
- Iowa is one of 15 prison systems that has not yet vaccinated more than 60% of the incarcerated population.
- Iowa failed to utilize one of the most obvious, and easiest, tools for reducing the prison population — stopping prison admissions for technical violations of probation and parole (which are not crimes).
For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:
- Our Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic page tracks criminal justice policy responses to the coronavirus all 50 states
- Despite the pandemic, Iowa held more youth under age 18 in adult prisons in 2020 than in 2019.
- Iowa prisons were still over 100% capacity in December 2020, several months into the pandemic
- How many COVID-19 cases in Iowa communities can be linked to outbreaks in correctional facilities? (data from our report Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread)
- We're tracking Iowa's medical copay policies in prisons during the pandemic
- State prison and jail population data for February 2022. (Previous data is available for October 2021, June 2021, February 2021, December 2020, September 2020, August 2020, and May 2020.) Data availability varies by state.
Our other articles about Iowa
Prison-based gerrymandering in Iowa