Iowa Pardon and Parole Laws


In Iowa, provisions relating to pardon and parole are provided under Iowa Code §§ 901.9 through 915.18, and Iowa Const., Art. IV § 16.  Iowa Code § 904A.1, creates a Board of Parole (“Board”) that consists of five members.  The term of each member will be for four years.  In the state of Iowa, at the time of committing a defendant to the Iowa department of corrections for incarceration, the trial judge and prosecuting attorney will, furnish the Board with a full statement of their recommendations relating to release or parole[i].

Duties of the Board

The Board has the duty to determine which prisoners can be released on parole and the conditions of parole.  The Board should adopt rules regarding a system of paroles from correctional institutions.  It should direct, control, and supervise the administration of the system of paroles.  The Board should also determine which of those persons who have been committed to the custody of the director of the Iowa department of corrections, by reason of their conviction of a public offense, should be released on parole[ii].  The duties of the Board also include[iii]:

  • Interviewing and considering the inmates for parole.  A majority vote of the members is required to grant a parole.
  • Interviewing the inmates according to administrative rules adopted by the Board.
  • Gathering and reviewing information regarding new parole programs being instituted or considered nationwide and determining which programs will be useful for Iowa.  The Board should review the current parole programs and procedures used in Iowa on an annual basis.
  • Increasing utilization of data processing and computerization to assist in the orderly conduct of the parole system.
  • Conducting studies of the parole system as requested by the governor and the general assembly.
  • Providing technical assistance and counseling related to the Board’s purposes to public and private entities.
  • Reviewing and making recommendations to the governor regarding all applications for reprieves, pardons, commutation of sentences, remission of fines or forfeitures, or restoration of citizenship rights.
  • Implementing a risk assessment program that can provide risk assessment analysis for the Board.

Grounds for Release on Parole

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 902.11, the Board can provide parole to a person who is serving a sentence for conviction of a felony, who has a criminal record of one or more prior convictions for a forcible felony or a crime of a similar gravity in Iowa or any other state, unless the person has served at least one-half of the maximum term of the sentence.  However, the Board can grant parole even if the mandatory sentence is not completed under circumstances such as:

  • The sentences for the prior forcible felonies expired at least five years before the date of conviction for the present felony.
  • The sentence being served is on a conviction for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 902.12, the Board can grant parole to a person serving a sentence for conviction of one of the following felonies, if the person has served at least seven-tenths of the maximum term of the person’s sentence.  The felonies for which the person should serve seven-tenths of the maximum term of the person’s sentence include[iv]:

  • Murder in the second degree.
  • Attempted murder.
  • Sexual abuse in the second degree.
  • Kidnapping in the second degree.
  • Robbery in the first or second degree.
  • Vehicular homicide.

Conditions for Parole

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 905.14, a person placed on parole will be subject to supervision by a district department.  The person should pay an enrollment fee of three hundred dollars to the district department to offset the costs of supervision.  In addition to the enrollment fee, the district department can also require the person to pay a fee to the district department to offset the costs of providing sex offender programming to that person.  The fees should not be waived by the sentencing court.  Every district department should retain fees collected for administrative and program services.

Iowa Code § 910.5 provides that if an offender is to be placed on parole, restitution shall be a condition of parole.  The restitution plan should be made considering the offender’s income, physical and mental health, education, employment, and family circumstances.  Failure of the offender to comply with the restitution plan of payment including a community service requirement will constitute a violation of a condition of parole.  After the expiration of the offender’s sentence, the failure of an offender to comply with the plan of restitution ordered by the court will constitute contempt of court.

Duties of Parole Officers

Iowa Code § 906.11 provides that a person released on parole should be assigned to a parole officer by the director of the judicial district department of correctional services.  Both the person and the person’s parole officer shall be furnished in writing with the conditions of parole including a copy of the plan of restitution and the restitution plan of payment, and the regulations which the person will be required to observe.  The parole officer should explain these conditions and regulations to the person, and supervise, assist, and counsel the person during the term of the person’s parole.

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 906.2, parole officers have all the powers and authority of peace officers.  Parole officers should investigate all persons referred to them for investigation by the chief parole officer.  They should furnish to each person released under their supervision a written statement of conditions.  They should be informed of each person’s conduct and condition.  Parole officers can use all suitable methods to aid and encourage the person to bring about improvement in the person’s conduct or condition.  Parole officers should keep records of their work, make reports as required, and perform other duties that are assigned to them by the chief parole officer or the director of a judicial district department of correctional services.  They should coordinate their work with that of other social welfare agencies which offer services of a corrective nature operating in the area to which they are assigned.

A parole officer should periodically review all paroles assigned to the parole officer.  When the parole officer determines that any person assigned to the officer is able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law-abiding citizen without further supervision, the officer can discharge the person from parole after notification and approval of the district director and notification of the Board.  However, a parole officer or the district director who acts in the course of the person’s official duty and is not personally liable, either civilly or criminally, for the acts of a person discharged from parole by the officer after such discharge, unless the discharge constitutes willful disregard of the person’s duty[v].

Authorities of the Board

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 906.4, a parole can be ordered only for the best interest of society and the offender.  It cannot be taken as an award of clemency.  The Board should release any person whom it has the power to so release on parole, when in its opinion there is reasonable probability that the person can be released without detriment to the community or to the person.  A person’s release is not considered a detriment to the community or the person if the person is able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding citizen, in the Board’s determination.

A person on parole can begin parole in a residential facility operated by a judicial district department of correctional services.  The Board can order the defendant to provide a physical specimen to be submitted for DNA profiling as a condition of parole, if a DNA profile has not been previously conducted.  In determining the appropriateness of ordering DNA profiling, the Board should consider the deterrent effect of DNA profiling, the likelihood of repeated offenses by the defendant, and the seriousness of the offense[vi].

The Board can establish a condition of a person’s parole that the person should perform a specified number of hours of unpaid community service.  The Board should not make community service a uniform or mandatory requirement for all or substantially all parolees.  The Board should report to the general assembly on the implementation of community service as a condition of parole[vii].

Iowa Code § 906.4 provides that the Board can require each inmate who is physically and mentally capable to demonstrate functional literacy competence at or above the sixth grade level to make progress towards completion of the requirements for a high school equivalency diploma prior to release of the inmate on parole.

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 906.12, parole can be to a place outside the state when the Board can determine it to be to the best interest of the state and the prisoner.  The Board can impose rules for placing a parolee outside the state.

Iowa Code § 906.15 provides that a person released on parole should be discharged when the person’s term of parole equals the period of imprisonment specified in the person’s sentence, less all time served in confinement.  Discharge from parole can be granted prior to such time, when an early discharge is appropriate.  The Board should periodically review all paroles, and when the Board determines that any person on parole is able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding citizen without further supervision, the Board can discharge the person from parole.  Discharge from parole will terminate a person’s sentence.

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 906.16, the time when a prisoner is on parole from the institution will apply to the sentence against the parolee.  If a parole revocation hearing is held, the administrative parole judge or the Board can determine the amount of time on parole that will apply to the sentence against the parolee.  The time when a prisoner is absent from the institution by reason of an escape will not apply upon the sentence against the prisoner.

Violation of Parole

Iowa Code § 906.17 provides that, the Iowa department of corrections can provide temporary confinement for alleged parole violators if space is available.  The Iowa department of corrections should reimburse a county for the temporary confinement of alleged parole violators.

The department of corrections can arrange for the return of parolees who escape from the facility to which they are assigned or violate the conditions of supervision.  The parolee should reimburse the department of corrections for the costs incurred because of the escape or violation[viii].

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 908.1, a parole officer having probable cause to believe that any person released on parole has violated the parole plan or the conditions of parole can arrest such person.  The parole officer can also make a complaint before a magistrate, charging such violation.  If there is probable cause to believe that such person has violated the parole plan or the terms of parole, the magistrate can issue a warrant for the arrest of such person.  If a parole officer has newly discovered evidence which indicates that a person released on parole should not have been granted parole originally, the parole officer should present the evidence to the Board and the Board can issue an order to rescind the parole.  The parole revocation hearing can be held in any county in the same judicial district in which the alleged parole violator had the initial appearance or in the county from which the warrant for the arrest of the alleged parole violator was issued[ix].  Iowa Code § 908.4 provides that parole revocation hearing will be conducted by administrative parole judge.

Iowa Code § 908.10 states that when a person is convicted and sentenced to incarceration in Iowa for a felony committed while on parole, or is convicted and sentenced to incarceration under the laws of any other state of the U.S. or a foreign government or country for an offense committed while on parole, the person’s parole will be considered as revoked from the date of the commission of the new felony offense.  When a person is convicted and sentenced to incarceration in Iowa for an aggravated misdemeanor committed while on parole, or is convicted and sentenced to incarceration under the laws of any other state of the U.S. or a foreign government or country for an offense committed while on parole, the person’s parole will be considered as revoked from the date of the commission of the new aggravated misdemeanor offense[x].

Power of Governor to Grant Pardon

Iowa Code § 914.1 provides that the governor will have the power to grant a reprieve, pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fines and forfeitures, or restoration of the rights of citizenship under the constitution of the state of Iowa.

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 914.3, the Board periodically reviews all applications by persons convicted of criminal offenses and can recommend to the governor the reprieve, pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fines or forfeitures, or restoration of the rights of citizenship for persons who have by their conduct given satisfactory evidence that they will become or continue to be law-abiding citizens.

However, pursuant to Iowa Const., Art. IV § 16, the governor cannot grant a pardon for treason and cases of impeachment.  Upon conviction for treason, the governor will have the power to suspend the execution of the sentence until the case is reported to the general assembly, when the general assembly can grant a pardon, commute the sentence, direct the execution of the sentence, or grant a further reprieve.

Iowa Pardon and Parole Laws

[i] Iowa Code § 901.9.

[ii] Iowa Code § 906.3.

[iii] Iowa Code § 904A.4.

[iv] Iowa Code § 902.12.

[v] Iowa Code § 906.15.

[vi] Iowa Code § 906.4.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Iowa Code § 906.18.

[ix] Iowa Code § 908.3.

[x] Iowa Code § 908.10A.