New Waterloo correctional center complete, but little being used - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New Waterloo correctional center complete, but little being used

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Construction on a brand new $6 million women's correctional services center in Waterloo is now complete.  It's located on Lafayette Street, alongside the new Operation Threshold office, and the site for the new Northeast Iowa Food Bank.  But very little of the new correctional facility is being used since the state legislature slashed funding for the Department of Corrections.

The Waterloo Women's Center for Change is an expansive new space that has the ability to house 45 women in community based corrections.  But none of the residential space is being used right now.  That's because during the 2011 session, part of the state's sweeping budget cuts meant the legislature didn't approve funding to staff it.      

"When we can put folks in their community, they can live in their community, work in their community, they can be citizens of the community and not be in one of our institutions---which cost almost three times as much--then it's the better way to do it.  So I was very disappointed that we couldn't fund this facility," said Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Hancock, chair of the Justice Appropriations Committee.

So the center certainly hopes funding can be secured next year.  DOC officials say it's a matter of looking at the long term benefits a facility like the women's center can provide.

"It's about the success of the women.  And we have seen statistically that we can reduce recidivism, which keeps our community safer as well," said Karen Herkelman, 1st Judicial District Department of Correctional Services director.

In fact, community based corrections tailored to women were shown to drop the risk of them committing another crime by seven percent last year alone.

"This center will provide a real supportive environment where they can get financial assistance, like financial counseling and those types of things, assistance with job searching and education. They'll also get cognitive behavior therapy designed specifically for women," Herkelman said.

But for now, the facility will just be using office and conference room space to provide services for the 400 women currently on probation or parole.  So staff at the women's center look forward to the day when the entire facility can be opened, in order to help more women make a successful transition back into society.

Once the residential facility at the women's center is open, it will bring about 20 new good paying jobs to Waterloo.  Men will continue to be housed at the Waterloo correctional facility on 6th Street.

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