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The Skylark Project

Comprehensive services for incarcerated survivors of intimate partner violence.

The Skylark Project   offers comprehensive services to incarcerated victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, a population with a high incidence of trauma and few treatment resources. Approximately 60% of female prisoners nationally experienced domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives, and administrators at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) estimate that percentage is even higher for female prisoners here in Iowa.

We believe it is imperative to recognize and serve this population. The crimes committed by many incarcerated survivors are linked directly and causally to their experiences as victims of domestic and sexual violence; therefore, the Skylark Project formed to highlight and address the broad and underserved needs of survivors of domestic violence in Iowa’s prison system.

Commutation Assistance

The cornerstone of the Skylark Project is commutation assistance. The project carefully screens and reviews cases to select only those where the causal link between domestic violence and the crime is clear. The women selected receive intensive support and assistance in drafting their commutation applications. 

The commutation candidates we select represent the egregious miscarriages of justice that occur when domestic violence is not a mitigating factor in the criminal justice system. In these cases the crimes committed are directly related to the abuse the women suffered, yet because of racism, poverty, youth, and outdated laws, these clients did not receive adequate counsel or review by the criminal justice system.  

Selection Process

  • Stage 1: Self-Reporting Survey

  • Stage 2: History of Abuse Interview, approx. 50 yes or no questions

  • Stage 3: Face-to-Face Interviews with ICADV Staff


Because the majority of women in prison will someday re-enter the community, we provide services to empower women to live safely and independently, without turning to crime or unhealthy relationships. Skylark Project staff facilitate classes on healthy ways to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and past traumas.


Since 2012, Skylark’s Alice Barton Scholarship program helped more than 200 survivors at ICIW pursue college education. Skylark partners with Des Moines Area Community College and other schools to host for-credit classes at the prison, enabling several students to complete their Associate of Arts degree. Students learn new skills and information that invite them to dream bigger, form supportive relationships with teachers and fellow students, and see themselves as capable and valuable.


  • 87% of students feel more confident setting and achieving goals for themselves

  • 93% of students feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it

  • 100% of students feel confident in their knowledge and value even when faced with criticism


Scholarships are available to survivors regardless of their sentence or underlying crime of conviction. With these skills and support, the Skylark Project has helped many women move beyond their traumatic pasts and become
success stories.


Seeking Safety

Seeking Safety is a present-focused therapy to help people attain safety from trauma/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. The treatment is available as a book, providing both client handouts and guidance
for clinicians.

Get Involved

To learn more about the Skylark Project and opportunities to volunteer and support incarcerated survivors, please contact Liz Albright Battles, Skylark Project director, at 515.244.8028.

Resources and Information to Support Incarcerated Survivors
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