Using Sentencing Data to Assess the

Impact of Legislation








Lettie Prell, Analyst

Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning

State of Iowa
















October 2003







Iowa Code §2.56  Correctional impact statements (1993 Acts)

1.  Prior to debate on the floor of a chamber of the general assembly, a correctional impact statement shall be attached to any bill, joint resolution, or amendment which proposes a change in the law which creates a public offense, significantly changes an existing public offense or the penalty for an existing offense, or changes existing sentencing, parole, or probation procedures. The statement shall include information concerning the estimated number of criminal cases per year that the legislation will impact, the fiscal impact of confining persons pursuant to the legislation, the impact of the legislation upon existing correctional institutions, community-based correctional facilities and services, and jails, the likelihood that the legislation may create a need for additional prison capacity, and other relevant matters. The statement shall be factual and shall, if possible, provide a reasonable estimate of both the immediate effect and the long-range impact upon prison capacity.

2. a.  The preliminary determination of whether a bill, joint resolution, or amendment appears to require a correctional impact statement shall be made by the legislative service bureau, which shall send a copy of the bill, joint resolution, or amendment, upon completion of the draft, to the legislative fiscal director for review, unless the requestor specifies the request is to be confidential.

b.  When a committee of the general assembly reports a bill, joint resolution, or amendment to the floor, the committee shall state in the report whether a correctional impact statement is or is not required.

c.  The legislative fiscal director shall review all bills and joint resolutions placed on the calendar of either chamber of the general assembly, as well as amendments filed to bills or joint resolutions on the calendar, to determine whether a correctional impact statement is required.

d.  A member of the general assembly may request the preparation of a correctional impact statement by submitting a request to the legislative fiscal bureau.

3.  The legislative fiscal director shall cause to be prepared and shall approve a correctional impact statement within a reasonable time after receiving a request or determining that a proposal is subject to this section. All correctional impact statements approved by the legislative fiscal director shall be transmitted immediately to either the chief clerk of the house or the secretary of the senate, after notifying the sponsor of the legislation that the statement has been prepared, for publication in the daily clip sheet. The chief clerk of the house or the secretary of the senate shall attach the statement to the bill, joint resolution, or amendment affected as soon as it is available.

4.  The legislative fiscal director may request the cooperation of any state department or agency or political subdivision in preparing a correctional impact statement.

5.  A revised correctional impact statement shall be prepared if the correctional impact has been changed by the adoption of an amendment, and may be requested by a member of the general assembly or be prepared upon a determination made by the legislative fiscal director. However, a request for a revised correctional impact statement shall not delay action on the bill, joint resolution, or amendment unless so ordered by the presiding officer of the chamber.

Section History: Recent form

Correctional Impact Statement Data Sources


·        Iowa Justice Data Warehouse: District Court Data

ü      Charges filed

ü      Conviction rates (convicted as charged vs. other level of offense)

ü      Convictions

ü      Penalties (average length of jail term and jail/prison incarceration rates)

ü      Fines and fines collection rates (and other monetary penalties)

ü      Juvenile court information


·        Iowa Justice Data Warehouse: Community-Based Corrections Data

ü      Probation admissions by most serious offense (field and residential)

ü      Average length of stay on probation

ü      Probation closures by type (including revocations to prison)

ü      Other


·        Adult Corrections Information System

ü      New prison admissions by lead offense

ü      Average length of stay (prior to first release as well as on return for violations)


·        CJJP Parole Recidivism Studies

ü      Return rates by type of offense (violent, drug, property, etc.)

ü      Time lag from prison release to recidivist event


·        Other (Depending on Legislation Topic)





Early Justice Data Warehouse 展ins”



ü      FY2001.  Predicted the revenue impact of increasing fines for 100 different traffic offenses that affected 294,000 convictions annually.  This was accomplished by examining fines collection rates for traffic violations by $5 to $10 increments – fifteen separate queries.  Prior to the warehouse, no statewide data on simple misdemeanors and scheduled traffic violations were available. 



ü     FY2002.  Used juvenile court information to estimate the impact of a proposed expansion of mandatory juvenile waivers to adult court.  We found that just nine juveniles were referred to juvenile court during FY2001 for offenses covered by the proposal, and that of those, four were waived to adult court.  Applying adult court dismissal/acquittal rates and incarceration rates for the remaining five juveniles who would be waived to adult court under the proposal, CJJP estimated no impact on prisons or jails, and an impact of two per year on adult probation resources.



ü      FY2002.  Via a complex query that took up to ten minutes to run, CJJP found that about 7% of those convicted of domestic abuse were later cited for violations of no-contact orders within a 3.5 year period.  This information was used to estimate the potential impact of a proposal regarding no-contact orders in intra-family sexual abuse cases.


Penalty Change Example: First-Offense Burglary-3rd Degree


Provision. The penalty for first-offense Burglary-3rd degree involving an unoccupied motor vehicle, truck or boat is reduced from a Class D felony to an aggravated misdemeanor. First-offense Attempted Burglary-3rd of vehicles and boats is reduced from an aggravated misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor.  This law was made effective beginning in FY2002.


Estimated Impact on Convictions. Through analysis of case files for a sample of prison admissions for Burglary-3rd and Attempted Burglary-3rd, CJJP found that about 20% of offenses would be affected.  The correctional impact statement estimated 95 convictions for the new first-offense burglary and 27 convictions for the new first-offense attempted burglary in Year One, and 190 convictions for first-offense burglary and 53 convictions for first-offense attempted burglary annually thereafter. 


Actual Impact on Convictions.  Due to the 都avings clause”, the lesser penalty was applied to cases pending before the court for offenses committed prior to the beginning of FY2002, nullifying the estimated 斗ag effect” of the new law.  Little application of the law for attempted burglary, suggesting much of this crime may be actual burglaries that were plea-bargained.



Offender-Based Convictions: Burglary-3rd degree





 ---------- FY2002 ----------

 ---------- FY2003 ----------








1st-Offense Only




1st-Offense Only






186 (20% of total)


280 (26% of total)



Attempted Burglary-3rd



6 (3% of total)


14 (7% of total)




Estimated Impact on Sentences. The correctional impact statement assumed first-offense burglary would have a similar incarceration rate to FY2001 attempted burglary (aggravated misdemeanor).


Actual Impact on Sentences. Prison incarceration rate similar to what was estimated; jail incarceration rate higher than estimated.


Burglary Incarceration Rates


% Sentenced to Prison

% Sentenced to Jail




Burglary-3rd (Class D)



First-Offense Burglary-3rd (Agg Misd)



Comparison with FY2001:



   Burglary-3rd (Class D)



   Attempted Burglary (Agg Misd)




Estimated Impact on Prison Admissions. The correctional impact statement estimated 65 fewer prison admissions for Class D felonies per year (half this for Year One), and 15 additional prison admissions for aggravated misdemeanors per year (half this for Year One).  This latter figure is the net effect of additional aggravated misdemeanor prison admissions for first-offense burglary-3rd, minus reduced admissions for aggravated misdemeanor attempted burglary.


Actual Impact on Prison Admissions.



New Prison Admissions: Burglary-3rd degree

(Lead Offenses Only)











First-Offense Only



First-Offense Only




232 (47 fewer)


227 (52 fewer)



Attempted Burglary-3rd


16 (5 fewer)


16 (5 fewer)



Net effect, Agg Misd Burg







Net effect, Aggravated Misdemeanor Burglary is calculated by adding admissions for 吐irst offense only” Burglary-3rd and admissions for Attempted Burglary-3rd.


Impact on Average Length of Stay in Prison and Jail. As of FY2002, an insufficient amount of time has elapsed to compare the average length of stay in prison for offenders convicted of first-offense Burglary-3rd with those convicted of Class D felony Burglary-3rd. However, based on a sample of year 2002 prison exits, one may expect that offenders imprisoned for first-offense Burglary-3rd will serve less time on average than if they had been convicted of a Class D felony. Non-violent Class D felons released in 2002 served an average of 15 months in prison prior to 吐irst release”, while non-violent aggravated misdemeanants served an average of 8 months. Non-violent offenses include burglary, other property crimes, and drug offenses. Releases include parole, work release, sentence reconsideration, expiration of sentence, and other forms of release. 擢irst release” is the first prison exit that occurs on the prison commitment.


Regarding offenders sentenced to jail on conviction for first-offense Burglary-3rd, the average length of the jail term (the portion to be actually served in jail and not suspended) was 39 days. This is substantially less than the average jail term for aggravated misdemeanor Attempted Burglary-3rd during FY2001, which was 67 days. Therefore, while first-offense burglars are being sentenced to jail more often than aggravated misdemeanor burglars in the past, their sentences are shorter on average.