An Iowa-based agency is exploring the idea of using prison inmates to help build at least 100 homes for low-income individuals around the state. The state’s Department of Corrections says the program would provide inmates work training that could reduce their likelihood of returning and help alleviate Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers. Although there may be “a lot of wins to this program,” The News Tribune’s Barbara Rodriguez reports the idea was quietly considered and then ultimately rejected during the last legislative session.

A bill to create the program failed to secure enough support in the Republican-controlled Legislature by missing key deadlines for legislation to advance. It was later added to unrelated budget bills before getting cut. Corrections officials plan to pitch the program again, possibly in the legislative session beginning in January.

Most states use prison labor to produce a range of goods and services, but building affordable housing appears rare. Missouri recently launched a program that will involve some inmates building tiny homes. South Dakota inmates have been building homes for more than 20 years, making it the model.

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