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Southeast Iowa Drug Courts to Close
Brian Turner

Iowa's new budget takes effect July 1 and with it comes some big changes for the Eighth Judicial District Department of Corrections, which encompasses the southeast corner of the state.Daniel Fell, who serves as District Director, said his department's budget faces a $264,000 shortfall.  He said addressing it requires the elimination of some important programs including sex offender treatment, domestic violence prevention and the drug courts in Fort Madison and Ottumwa. 

Fell said the loss of drug court will be felt especially. That program gives drug offenders an opportunity to avoid serious jail time. "It's never easy to cut such a viable program," said Fell.  "One that gets good results like the drug court."

Fell said these are services the district offered with the help of other agencies.  He said the money saved by canceling the contracts will allow him to maintain his current employees.

"We are talking about probation and parole officers and support staff," said Fell.  "There are other staff we have that touch the drug court program that don't work on it all the time.  We have our high-risk unit officers (who) conduct all of the home visits and safety searches and (who) check on the offenders.  We have community treatment coordinators in-house (who) provide some resources."

Fell said there is not a contingency plan to save these services.  He doubts the legislature will find the additional $264,000 in the current budget, but he's hopeful the programs could be restored in the future.

A hiring freeze has also been implemented for the Eighth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, which covers 14 counties including Lee and Des Moines.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.