Iowa Women’s Corrections: A History

Erica Spiller’s first book, Iowa Women’s Corrections: A History, explores the evolution of women’s corrections in the state.

Iowa Women’s Corrections: A History

Iowa began building its first prison before achieving statehood, and women were sentenced to penitentiaries prior to the establishment of plans for their own housing. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, incarcerated women transitioned through a series of institutions and confinement environments, often as the result of persistent overcrowding, underfunding, discriminatory laws or practices or to make room for incarcerated men. Early in Iowa’s correctional history, women disproportionately served time for crimes considered to be against public decency, such as prostitution, lewdness and incorrigibility. Over time, their conditions and crimes evolved, but incarcerated women continually faced obstacles, such as access to treatment and programming, adequate facilities and opportunities for reentry and reform.