Iowa Meth Legislation Leads to Decline in Prison Population

Iowa legislation restricting the over-the-counter sale of pseudoephedrine has led to the shutting down of methamphetamine labs and an overall reduction in the state’s prison population, the Des Moines Register reported Jan. 25.

A new report from the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning reveals a 24 percent overall reduction in Iowa’s drug-related incarcerations over the last four years. A total of 795 inmates entered Iowa’s prisons for drug-related crimes in 2008, compared with 1,049 in 2005. Methamphetamine-related imprisonments dropped by more than half, from 697 in 2005 to 343 in 2008. 

The reduction in meth-related incarcerations is directly linked to a 2005 state law restricting access to pseudoephedrine, a chemical precursor used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine, said Gary Kendell, director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. 174 meth labs were uncovered in Iowa in 2008, down from about 1,500 annually in 2004, Kendell said.

“This is probably the best example of legislation doing what it was supposed to do,” said Paul Stageberg, administrator of the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning. Operators of meth labs arrested in Iowa are generally slapped with a felony charge that carries a mandatory prison sentence.

Not all the statistics showed positive improvement, however. Drug-related prison admissions linked to crack cocaine in Iowa rose from 85 offenders in 2005 to 144 offenders last year, Stageburg said, and women are entering prison at a faster rate than men, leading to prison overpopulation concerns. 

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