Changing Lives Through Second Chances

governor reynolds having a conversation outdoors

Opportunity must exist for all Iowans, including those seeking a second chance to build a positive, productive life. Reforming Iowa’s criminal justice system and making sure the right opportunities are available for citizens re-entering our communities is a lasting legacy that this generation of Iowans must leave the next.

Felon Voting

Iowa is the only state in the nation where all convicted felons lose their right to vote unless they apply to the Governor for restoration. In 2019, Governor Reynolds proposed a constitutional amendment that would restore felon voting rights upon discharge after completion of their sentences. Overwhelming support by the Iowa House last year established that broad support exists to resolve this issue. This year, it is time to take the next step and make this happen. 

Criminal Justice Reform

Working to achieve a less-biased, more opportunity-focused system is critically important to protecting public safety and building stronger communities.

In 2019, Governor Reynolds appointed the FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform to continue to build on our progress. Based on the committee’s recommendations, our priorities for 2020 include:

  • Expanding treatment capacity in Iowa’s correctional facilities and realign community-based resources to focus on treatment following re-entry.
  • Streamlining conviction review for occupational licensing.

Supporting Successful Re-entry

Preparing inmates to successfully re-enter society is in the best interest of our state. Iowa’s Department of Corrections takes an innovative approach to providing inmates with unique education opportunities and work-based learning experiences that prepare them for life and work after incarceration. To continue to advance these efforts this year, Iowa will focus on:

  • Creating a competitive grant program to support and enhance the re-entry efforts of nonprofit organizations.
  • Establishing the Second Chance Employer designation for businesses that hire re-entering citizens.
  • Assisting individuals nearing release or discharge from prison with obtaining a driver’s license if eligible.
  • Connecting individuals not eligible for a driver’s license with the Department of Transportation’s Get There Your Way program, increasing awareness of alternative transportation options including public transit.
  • Increasing completion of the HiSET (high school equivalency test) among incarcerated individuals over the age of 21.
  • Creating a post-release educational pathway for re-entering individuals who want to continue pursuing post-secondary education.