For Immediate Release: May 24, 2024
Author: Dan T. Fell, District Director, 8th District | Media Contact: Zach Carlyle | doc.media@iowa.gov | (515) 415-7235

OTTUMWA, Iowa – Many years ago, the Ottumwa Residential Facility (ORF) was intentionally placed in an industrial park on the far northeast side of town, mostly to mollify the community. While the location worked for the rest of Ottumwa, it did, however, create transportation difficulties for the clients that they have experienced ever since.

Some clients at ORF have walked several miles, one way, to go to work or treatment, or even to take a short furlough. That can be physically demanding. Time is also a challenge. When clients are being held strictly accountable for their time, and new clients specifically, the long walk can create issues for them. Other challenges include paying for bus fare or taxis, finding co-workers or friends to shuttle them around, and money issues. The location itself in Ottumwa has led some clients to have a hard time saving the money necessary to reenter the community.

These barriers are not a new phenomenon for residential clients. However, in 2022, Burlington Residential Facility’s (BRF) at-the-time lead residential officer, Dalton Henry, had an idea.

“I thought we could have a fleet of bicycles for the clients to use and check out,” said Henry. He called the idea “Borrow a Bike.”

Henry expanded upon his “Borrow a Bike” idea during the 2022 in-house leadership academy and created a program to not only loan bicycles to clients, but to inspect them, maintain them, and fix them, if necessary.

Since the program’s inception, it has been busy, and more importantly, sustainable.

When Chuck Severs was promoted from his supervisor position at BRF to the manager position at ORF in late 2023, he needed some time to understand the operational similarities and differences between the two facilities. In May 2024, to reduce barriers for more clients under their supervision, a bike share program was installed at ORF.

“I saw how valuable that program was at BRF and was glad to be allotted the funding to start one here in Ottumwa,” stated Severs stated. ORF purchased 10 bicycles to get things started.

Bicycles are a little thing, right? But that goes a long way. Especially in Ottumwa.

Another example of the little things is the recently created “Clothing Closet” in Ottumwa. The facility staff created a resource for incoming clients who may only have their prison clothes or who are indigent and come from our communities with very little or nothing. To stock up, facility staff purchased several shopping carts full of clothing, including shirts, pants, jeans, undergarments, and socks. Even if it gets some “funny looks” at Wal-Mart, it is fully stocked and ready to assist the clients.

The little things truly matter. It sets the tone for a client’s time in and their outlook on residential placement. Every barrier that gets broken down creates another possible chance for a client to succeed.

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About the Iowa Department of Corrections

The Iowa Department of Corrections is making significant strides to implement evidence-based practices system-wide that are proven to reduce victimization, reduce recidivism and enhance community safety. The IDOC is a nationally recognized leader in corrections for innovation and implementation of evidence-based practices. Being on the forefront of innovation and practice, the IDOC continues its commitment to be the best corrections system in the country.

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