Justice Column

By: News Release
Dec 1st, 2017

This 83rd edition of Justice For All is about the West Union Residential Facility.

The Iowa Department of Correctional Services manages residential facilities which offer a structured environment for males and females. Some defendants enter a residential facility after having problems on supervised “street probation” while others enter after being paroled from prison. Residential facilities are often thought as halfway houses because the residents are either halfway from living on their own to being confined in prison or halfway from prison to street probation. The goals at the residential facility are to keep the resident out of prison and/or to transition him or her from prison back into society. A resident’s stay at a residential facility averages from an approximate four month minimum to the one year legal maximum.

The residential facility that Clayton County defendants are most often placed in is the West Union Residential Facility or the “WURF” as it is commonly known. The WURF has a bed capacity of 48 with 40 beds for men, 8 beds for woman and separate living spaces for each gender.

A very important aspect of any Iowa residential facility is the work requirement. Every resident who is able to work must make good faith efforts to find a job and keep it. The WURF has a very high resident employment rate which I believe is largely due to the extraordinary efforts of their staff in connecting residents with local employers. It would be easy to simply throw the phonebook at a resident and expect them to find a job on their own. At the WURF, the staff cares enough to talk with the resident, find out what his or her interests, talents and skills are, and help them find an employer who might be a good fit. It may be surprising for some to learn that there are in fact a number of employers who are willing to give residents a second chance at being productive citizens.

On August 28, 2017, the West Union Residential Facility turned 25 years old and held an open house to mark the occasion. Some the things I noticed while touring the facility on its 25th birthday were that the building is clean and organized and there is a full schedule of treatment providers who hold sessions at the WURF to address drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and sex offender issues, or in other words the underlying reasons that many defendants were placed in a residential facility to begin with. It’s also very apparent that there is a culture of respect at the WURF, residents respect the staff and staff respects the residents.

The WURF epitomizes the Department of Corrections motto of “First in Safety and Success” by providing appropriate treatment and programming opportunities while holding individuals accountable to their supervision expectations. Overall the West Union Residential Facility offers a valuable resource to my office as we make every effort to accomplish justice for all.