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Iowa Supreme Court Gives Inmates More Control of Wages

Iowa Prison Industries
Pews and other church furnishings are one of the products manufactured by inmates through the Iowa Prisons Industries program.

The Iowa Supreme Court says inmates can increase payments for court-ordered restitution, even if the amount they pay to the Iowa Department of Corrections is reduced. 

Beau Morris went to prison in 2004 for robbery and sexual assault, and now is now incarcerated at the Clarinda Correctional Facility. In 2011 he began working for the Iowa Prisons Industries program earning $10 an hour. 

With his prisons industries job application, Morris signed a employment agreement stipulating that he send 15 percent of his income to court-ordered restitution, and also to allow a portion of his wages to be garnished by the DOC. The DOC's share covers costs of incarceration.

In June 2012 Morris petitioned the district court to increase restitution payments to 50 percent of his paycheck.  An increase lessens the DOC's portion of Morris's income.

The district court said Morris could not change the distribution of his paycheck, but the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that ruling. Chief Justice Mark Cady writes that in Iowa code, restitution fees trump other payments.