JRC April 8 Newsletter

Vol. 9 #6 April 8, 2018Absurdity, Not Justice

Rep. Mary Wolfe (@RepMaryWolfe) tweeted that “SF 2230 enhances penalty for kidnapping a minor from Class “C” (10 years) to Class “B” (25 years) UNLESS kidnapper is a parent – not a parent of the kidnapped minor, just a parent – whose sole purpose is to assume custody of the minor – not legal custody, just custody.  Passed 82-16.”  Words do matter.  See for yourself.

710.3 Kidnapping in the second degree.

  1. Kidnapping where the purpose is to hold the victim for ransom, or where the kidnapper is armed with a dangerous weapon, or where the victim is under eighteen years of age other than a kidnapping by a parent or legal guardian whose sole purpose of the kidnapping is to assume custody of a victim under eighteen years of age, is kidnapping in the second degree. Kidnapping in the second degree is a class “B” felony.

The original version of the bill, as Senate Study Bill 3026, did not have the parental exception:

  1. Kidnapping where the purpose is to hold the victim for ransom, or where the kidnapper is armed with a dangerous weapon, or where the victim is under eighteen years of age is kidnapping in the second degree. Kidnapping in the second degree is a class “B” felony.

JRC objected to the bill originally because there was no exception to cover situations in which a noncustodial parent took the child from a custodial parent, or even in instances where the return of the child to a custodial parent took longer than expected or required.  What we didn’t expect when language was added to cover our concerns was a loophole.

Despite a very simple explanation of the problem with the bill, eighty-two members of the Iowa House of Representatives voted in favor of this bill.  This lopsided vote came after the defeat of an amendment by Rep. Rick Olson (D-Des Moines), which would have fixed the drafting flaw.  Rep. Olson’s amendment was defeated along party lines after the floor manager of the bill, Rep. Ross Paustian (R- Walcott) said that Rep. Olson’s amendment “waters down the bill”.  Wow!  The change from study bill to senate file opened up the flood gates.  Rep. Olson’s amendment would have fixed the bill’s defect, and would have included a limited number of specified family members (besides “the child’s” parent) that would have been exempted from the wide scope of the bill’s terms.  As he mentioned during debate: “This is a common sense amendment.”

Rep. Paustian’s opening statement appeared to be a word-for-word description prepared by the Iowa County Attorneys Association (ICAA).  JRC heard the same explanation during a subcommittee meeting.  The ICAA was attempting to close the barn door long after the horse had left.  But instead of fixing the past, it opened up the future to what could be described as legitimate kidnapping.

On the question “Shall the bill pass?” (S.F. 2230)

The ayes were, 82:

Bacon                          Baltimore                    Baxter                         Bearinger

Bennett                        Bergan                         Best                             Bloomingdale

Bossman                     Breckenridge               Brown-Powers            Carlson

Cohoon                       Cownie                        Deyoe                          Dolecheck

Finkenauer                  Fisher                          Forbes                         Gaskill

Gassman                     Grassley                      Gustafson                    Hagenow

Hager                          Hall                             Hanusa                        Heartsill

Heaton                         Heddens                      Hein                            Highfill

Hinson                         Holt                             Holz                            Huseman

Isenhart                       Jacobsen                      Jones                           Kacena

Kaufmann                   Kerr                             Klein                           Koester

Kressig                        Kurth                           Landon                        Lundgren

Maxwell                      McConkey                  McKean                      Meyer

Miller, P.                     Mohr                           Mommsen                   Moore

Nielsen                        Nunn                           Ourth                           Paustian

Pettengill                     Prichard                       Rizer                           Rogers

Running-Marquardt    Salmon                        Sexton                         Sheets

Sieck                           Smith, M.                    Smith, R.                     Staed

Taylor, R.                    Thede                          Upmeyer, Spkr.           Vander Linden

Watts                           Wheeler                       Wills                           Worthan

Zumbach                     Windschitl, Presiding

The nays were, 16:

Abdul-Samad              Anderson                     Baudler                       Gaines

Hunter                         Jacoby                         Kearns                         Lensing

Mascher                      Oldson                         Olson                           Steckman

Taylor, T.                    Wessel-Kroeschell      Winckler                     Wolfe

Absent or not voting, 2:

Fry                               Miller, H.

Notice the one lone Republican voting intelligently with progressive Democrats.

It’s bad enough that 82 representatives would cast a vote in support of this defective bill, but all 50 senators voted to pass it.  Does no one in the Senate pay attention to the “plain language” of legislation?  We’ll be honest.  We didn’t recognize the serious flaw until we noticed Rep. Mary Wolfe’s tweet.

JRC has several questions in relation to this bill.  How can a legislator vote in favor of a bill that is obviously flawed?  Were legislators not listening to the debate?  Surely, it was brought up in caucus.  How can an association made up of lawyers, the Iowa County Attorneys Association, insist that the bill NOT be modified, even though it cannot be enforced as written?

Congratulate those legislators that voted against this waste of legislative time.  If your legislator voted for this bill, ask why?  Legislation should NOT be advanced if there is a question about whether the language of the bill is ambiguous.  Bills such as SF 2230 often become the issue in a court case in which the codified language is declared unconstitutional.  JRC anticipates that this section of the kidnapping statute will take an express elevator to the Iowa Supreme Court when someone in the very near future is set free from a kidnapping charge because the alleged kidnapper is a parent and the plain language of the bill requires his/her release.

Phone rates in jails

The Iowa Utilities Board has exercised its rule making authority to propose an amendment to its current rules that would “implement rate caps on charges that may be assessed to inmates in Iowa correctional facilities and their families for local and intrastate telephone calls.”  Justice Reform Consortium supports this proposal.

The Notice of Intended Action, ARC 3674C, began with a Request for Rulemaking by Telespan Communications, Inc., and NCIC Inmate Telephone Services (NCIC) back on March 24 of 2017.  Shortly after the request was filed, the Board sought comments on whether it should commence action on adopting a rate cap for inmate phone calls.  JRC did not comment on the procedure last year, but did so this month as the comment period for the Intended Action came to a close.

Besides JRC, the Office of Consumer Advocate and NCIC/Telespan also commented in favor of the proposed rule.  Securus Technologies, Inc., which holds several contracts throughout the state, filed comments in opposition to the proposed rule.  In its opposition statement, Securus did mention that adoption of the rule would interfere with current contracts that Securus, or any other AOS (Alternative Operator Services)[1] companies have with correctional facilities in local subdivisions. The Utilities Board spokesperson before the Iowa Legislative Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) brought up this one concern of Securus and agreed that a change in the rules would have to address this problem.  However, he also concentrated on the benefits that lower rates have on lowering recidivism, and informed the committee that rates in Iowa have escalated to as much as $2.99 for a 1 minute call.

Several members of the ARRC commented positively on the proposal.  Senator Chelgren was concerned about the consistency this rule would have with federal requirements in federal prisons (there are no federal prisons in Iowa, but there are federal prisoners in county jails).  He was assured that this cap on rates would affect only those political subdivisions of the state and would not affect federal facilities or even the Iowa Department of Corrections.

The following excerpts are taken from JRC’s comments to the Utilities Board:

After many years of urging the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) to reduce phone rates, families of DOC inmates took matters into their own hands and began to buy cell phones and get a local phone number in the area where their family member was incarcerated. Eventually, the DOC adopted policy to reduce rates, drastically.

In Iowa, offenders have been paying outlandish costs for basic local and intrastate telephone calls because they don’t have any provider choices.  These high costs are for higher company profits or to facilitate kickbacks and commissions which cushion the jail’s general fund.  Iowa jails have other means of recouping the costs of incarceration through pay for stay, commissary sales, and other non-mandatory services. Capped rates and ancillary fees, such as those proposed, would prevent artificially inflated rates which impede communication with children negatively affected by incarceration and arranging for bills to be paid while incarcerated.  JRC believes Iowa needs to mandate local and interstate rates because the current industry rates are not reasonable, fair, or just.  As Iowa DOC has discovered, the results will be positive.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a program statement that states: “granting inmates access to telephones furthers important correctional objectives such as maintaining family and community ties. This in turn facilitates the reintegration of inmates into society upon release from prison and reduces recidivism.”

For many years, the Iowa Chapter of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) has participated in a national campaign for affordable phone charges. Iowa CURE (which is one of the member organizations of JRC) and International CURE have recommended a revenue-neutral phone system. It is difficult to understand why the prisoners, families and friends who use the inmate telephone system should pay the cost of operating the system.  Members of Iowa CURE have spoken with Iowa sheriffs about the matter of high phone rates and have been communicating with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department to further resolve the burden to families of incarcerated loved ones.

Those who say this rulemaking is premature and unnecessary [Securus] are shooting flares at passing ships.  They have a financial interest in keeping rates high and see their ship sinking.  On the other side of the argument, waiting for the federal government to resolve any matter relating to this issue could take years: It has already.

The Iowa Department of Corrections reduced its rates to .11 per minute for interstate, intrastate, and local calls. International rates also dramatically decreased to reflect actual costs (no profit) or 11 cents per minute, whichever is higher.  Not surprisingly, according the Iowa Ombudsman, when DOC lowered the telephone rates the number of calls increased and revenues increased.

Studies have shown that offenders and offender’s families (especially children) benefit from more contact with an incarcerated loved one.  Most people who enter jail do not have the money to pay $.50 per minute for a phone call (20-minute phone call is $10).  Families usually pay for the phone calls and spend a lot of money staying in contact with their loved one.

What’s next?  We anticipate that the proposed rule will be amended to address the issue of current contracts.  We do not know how the Board will amend the rule, but it remains a positive step even if the rule proceeds, and we suspect it will.

Bill watch

Senate File 2235 – This bill creates the new crime of critical infrastructure sabotage, and the penalties it provides are atrocious.  JRC OPPOSES.  The bill provides for a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and could violate the Eighth Amendment[2].

This bill has passed both chambers and is on its way to the governor’s office for her signature.

Senate File 2382 is an Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  This bill has been identified by JRC as a vicious attack on the courts in the past few newsletters.  Currently, an amendment supported by JRC and introduced by the House Judiciary Committee (unanimously approved in Committee), is pending on the floor of the House.  The amendment may be the demise of the entire bill, and that’s okay with us.  JRC believe this bill includes the constitutionally-prohibited act of logrolling.

House Joint Resolution 2010 and Senate Joint Resolution 2010:  These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.  Although neither resolution has been acted upon by its respective chamber, both are eligible for debate at any time.

HF 2443 – This bill addresses the delinquency jurisdiction of the juvenile court and the confidentiality and disclosure of certain juvenile court records.  JRC SUPPORTS this bill.  It is on the Senate Calendar and ready for debate at any time.

SF 2394 – A bill for an act relating to surcharges added to criminal penalties, court funds, civil fees, misdemeanor and felony fines and fines associated with scheduled violations.  JRC opposed this bill’s predecessor, Senate Study Bill 3202.  However, although the bill raises fees on page after page of criminal penalties, fines, etc., it does drastically reduce the criminal surcharges that have been attached to financial obligations owed by defendants in criminal matters.  After careful review, we decided to declare as UNDECIDED on this bill.  In any case (no pun intended), it is insulting and condescending to have the Legislature change the name of the fee from “Criminal Surcharges” to “crime services surcharges”.

In November of 2017, the Fiscal Services Division of the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency distributed a factual piece on “Criminal Fine Revenue and Surcharge Distribution”: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/publications/FTNO/864823.pdf

SF 2394 passed the Senate 45-4 on April 4 and has been sent to the House for its consideration.

As we mention often: A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

[1] “Alternative operator services company” means a nongovernmental company which receives more than half of its Iowa intrastate telecommunications services revenues from calls placed by end-user customers from telephones other than ordinary residence or business telephones.

[2] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

JRC March 25, 2018 Newsletter

Vol. 9 #5 March 25, 2018

 This Is Your Captain Speaking

The Iowa Legislature, like an airplane approaching its destination, is making its descent.  Join us in praying for a crash-free landing.  It’s been a year filled with turbulence.  The 100th day of this year’s session of Iowa’s Eighty-Seventh General Assembly arrives on April 17th.  That’s a Tuesday for anyone who’s counting.  The one-hundredth day marks the end of daily expense money for legislators, an incentive for coming back to earth.

So, for the next three weeks, the Legislature is limited in the bills it can consider.  Of course, the limitation is a list of just about everything:

▪ Bills passed by both Houses

▪ Appropriations Bills

▪ Ways and Means Bills

▪ Government Oversight Bills

▪ Legalizing Acts

▪ Administrative Rules Review Committee Bills

▪ Committee Bills related to delayed or suspended Administrative Rules

▪ Bills co-sponsored by Majority and Minority Leaders of one House

▪ Conference Committee Reports

▪ Companion Bills sponsored by Senate and House Majority Leaders

▪ Concurrent or Simple Resolutions

▪ Joint Resolutions nullifying Administrative Rules

▪ Bills on the Veto Calendar

▪ Unfinished Business

It seems as though this list doesn’t leave much, but the volume of bills that it doesn’t include is massive.  Many qualifying pieces of legislation mentioned above are rare.  Ways & Means (tax writing bills) and Appropriations bills are the focus of getting adjourned for the year.

Because of Justice Reform Consortium’s mission, we occasionally peek at a Ways and Means bill, but have seldom supported or opposed one (but see SF 2394 below).  On the other hand, we do pay attention to appropriations bills.  Not that we can do much about it, but we do follow some appropriations.  We rely upon you to contact your respective legislators to voice your support or opposition to particular sections of bills – primarily the Justice Systems Appropriations.

Setting aside appropriation bills for the present time, we remain actively opposed or supportive of the following bills still considered to be alive:

HF 2394 and Senate File 2235 – These bills create the new crime of critical infrastructure sabotage, and the penalties they provide are atrocious.  JRC OPPOSES.  These bills provide for a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and could violate the Eighth Amendment[1].

“Critical infrastructure sabotage” means any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. However, “critical infrastructure sabotage” does not include an accidental interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public caused by a person in the performance of the person’s work duties.”

JRC believes the language is too broad to make exceptions for a labor strike; a possible protest protected by the First Amendment; an incident in which someone runs into an electric pole that knocks out power for a large portion of a city; and several other unforeseen circumstances.  We consider the language to be overinclusive and underinclusive.

Senate File 2382 is an Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  This bill has been identified by JRC as a vicious attack on the courts in the past few newsletters.  Currently, an amendment supported by JRC and introduced by the House Judiciary Committee (unanimously approved in Committee), is pending on the floor of the House.  The amendment may be the demise of the entire bill, and that’s okay with us.  JRC believe this bill includes the constitutionally-prohibited act of logrolling.

House Joint Resolution 2010 and Senate Joint Resolution 2010:  These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.  We are reprinting what we wrote about this over a month ago:

We cannot say it any better than the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has said:

Invest in comprehensive victim rights and potections for victims of violent crimes – ICADV is unwavering in our support for all victims. We oppose Iowa’s Marsy’s Law (SSB 3040; HJR 2003) because experience tells us there are much more effective ways to support victims. Amending the constitution is a symbolic gesture that won’t make the criminal justice system any friendlier to victims. Establishing rights without legitimate remedy gives false hope to victims and diverts resources away from systems and services that can meet the comprehensive needs of Iowa victims. We believe this bill negatively impacts services and support for all victims, including the vast majority who will never set foot in a courtroom. The proposal contradicts essential principals of American justice and would upend our severely underfunded legal system to the detriment of victims. Iowa law already includes comprehensive victim rights and protections. Before amending the constitution, we should ensure we have adequately supported the systems and services that enable victims to access and benefit from statutory protections. The insensitivity and indifference experienced by many victims is not a constitutional failing. It is a failing of common decency by people, society and social systems themselves. Click here to read our full statement on Iowa’s Marsy’s Law. Click here to read our Victim Service Providers concerns of Marsy’s Law

HF 2443 – This bill addresses the delinquency jurisdiction of the juvenile court and the confidentiality and disclosure of certain juvenile court records.  JRC SUPPORTS this bill.  It is on the Senate Calendar and ready for debate at any time.

SF 2394 – A bill for an act relating to surcharges added to criminal penalties, court funds, civil fees, misdemeanor and felony fines and fines associated with scheduled violations.  JRC opposed this bill’s predecessor, Senate Study Bill 3202.  However, although the bill raises fees on page after page of criminal penalties, fines, etc., it does drastically reduce the criminal surcharges that have been attached to financial obligations owed by defendants in criminal matters.  After careful review, we decided to declare as UNDECIDED on this bill.  In any case (no pun intended), it is insulting and condescending to have the Legislature change the name of the fee from “Criminal Surcharges” to “crime services surcharges”. HF 2270 and SF 2230 – These companion bills redefine kidnapping in the second degree to include the kidnapping of a person under the age of 18.  Supposedly, this addition to the 2nd degree kidnapping would have prevented one person from being released from prison in which he subsequently kidnapped and murdered a minor.  We disagree with the rationale and facts in the case.  A prosecutor had the ability to charge the person with a more severe crime earlier in the person’s life but did not.  JRC opposes bills whose impetus is to address “one” previous case, especially one in which there is discrepancy about the nature of the criminal process.

As we mention often: A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

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If you spot incorrect information, please let us know.  We strive to produce an accurate account of legislative activity in Iowa as it pertains to criminal justice.  We may make a mistake from time to time, but we admit our fallibility and work to give you a newsletter that we hope will inform you on issues not covered by mainstream media or other outlets.

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

Contacts

Mike Cervantes – Director of Inside Out Reentry Community 319-621-6263 insideoutreentry@gmail.com

Catrina Carter – Director of Reentry and Treatment Services for Iowa DOC 515-725-5713 (office)  515-314-2645 (cell)

Cord Overton – Communications Director for Iowa DOC   515-725-5707 (office) cord.overton@iowa.gov

Selected links:

 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/us/hepatitis-c-drugs-prisons.html?partne Hepatitis C Drugs Save Lives, but Sick Prisoners Aren’t Getting Them. New York Times. By TED ALCORN  MARCH 15, 2018.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/opinion/missing-criminal-justice-data.html Missing: Criminal Justice Data.  New York Times. AMY BACH  MARCH 21, 2018.

 

[1] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

March 11, 2018 Newsletter

Vol. 9 #4 March 11, 2018

 Do as I Say

The Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee was late starting on February 28th because Iowa Senate Democrats were holding a caucus meeting in Room 24, while their Republican counterparts were down the hall in Room 22.  These closed governmental meetings called caucuses are where legislative decisions are made.  Regular committee and subcommittee meetings are scheduled and held to publicly perform caucus conclusions.  The House Chamber follows this same system.  The Iowa legislature passes laws that require political subdivisions, like cities, counties, and school boards, to conduct business in the open through a thick series of laws addressing open meetings and public records.  It doesn’t have to lead by example.

The caucus isn’t just for decision making, it serves as a support group for frustrated legislators to air their disappointments, and it also can serve as a delay tactic for passing controversial legislative bills both at the committee level and prior to debate in the chamber.  The consequence of this deeply engrained system is losing sight of representing the needs of the constituents.  The needs of the caucus have usurped the needs of the constituents.

One poor constituent visited the Iowa Capitol a few years ago to observe a Senate Judiciary meeting, not aware of the dramatic difference between legislative branch meetings and other governmental meetings operating in the open.  She was so excited to watch her government at work.  When the legislators scampered off to caucus, she turned to me deeply confused.  Fifty minutes later, they returned and voted out of committee a number of legislative bills with no meaningful discussion.  Watching this woman go from pumped up enthusiasm to utter and complete deflation continues to haunt me.

The “do as I say, not as I do” theory isn’t restricted to the legislative branch of government. When Jerry Bartruff, director for the Department of Corrections (DOC), marched into the Justice Systems Appropriations meeting with the usual entourage of correctional upper management in tow, he was PowerPoint presentation prepared for maintaining the myth that “everything is rosy” in the land of corrections.  The “do as I say” message from the governor’s office is very clear.  Don’t deviate from the proposed budget.  The DOC has had its budget slashed by millions, resulting in public safety concerns.

Although Bartruff dutifully fulfilled the executive branch’s decree, even miming the newest buzz words “data driven” decision making, the presentation became an excellent example of how data can be crafted to paint various pictures, depending on the argument.

His comments encompassed a number of issues:

  • DOC conducted a staffing analysis and now are getting rid of staff that wasn’t important. He coined the term “evidence-based staff”, meaning getting the right people by evaluating each for specific competencies and attributes.
  • The Department is shifting beds and staffing and also looks toward shifting classifications.
  • 73% of the funding goes to prisons—DOC wants to shift money to community-based-corrections.
  • Iowa’s violent crime rate is on a slow but steady rise. FBI data shows a rise in violent crime in rural areas, while going down in metro areas.
  • The 3 million-dollar grant for recidivism reduction was used for staff training.
  • An increase in use of tele psychiatry and tele medicine is a financial plus for the correctional budget.
  • The prison population is aging. As the age of the inmate goes up, so do the medical costs.
  • Focusing resources on recidivism reduction. Risk evaluation tied to needs.
  • The DOC toolkit is well-stocked with data-driven tools such as:

Validated Risk Assessment

Risk proficiency

Gap analysis/ cost-benefit programs

Staffing analysis and workload studies

Reclassified prisons for optimal outcomes

Evidence-based job descriptions

Despite the attempt to portray a well-organized strategy, a number of subcommittee members weren’t buying into the vast amount of jargon and gently questioned him on the data.

Rep. Gary Wortham (R-Storm Lake), Co-chair, requested that slide 13 break out the numbers to show the correctional staff that has direct contact with the offenders.

Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) stated that he was deeply concerned.  Crime is up and recidivism is up.  Five hundred people a year are returning to the system. He feels that the reduction in staff is related to the recidivism.  “Why are we seeing an increase in correctional officers being attacked?”  He wants the data in the presentation scaled accurately denoting the 18.7% reduction in correctional officers and the 4% inmate reduction.  If “this legislature doesn’t fund them, this legislature is responsible for the victims in crime.”

Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), Co-chair, wanted to know why the DOC chose the specific states on slide 4 representing how Iowa was safer in comparison to “our neighbors’”incarceration rates (Missouri, South Dakota, Indiana, Illinois and Kansas).  Why not Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska?

Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) stated that “data helps to direct us, but there’s a human factor” and she’s very concerned about recidivism.

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) felt that recidivism going up made sense.  More people are being paroled, so wouldn’t you expect recidivism to also go up?

Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton) the House ranking member, is worried about the funding being taken away with the staff assaults.

Sen. Robert Dvorsky (D-Coralville), the Senate ranking member, ended the question and comment part of the presentation by relating what a great job the DOC is doing.  He had heard that Bartruff was going to retire.

The meeting ended on a positive note and the budgetary discussions will take place, behind closed doors, of course.

 Rolling Logs

The Iowa Legislature has a process of eliminating certain bills from the in-box so that it can move on to more important issues, like the budget.  It’s called the funnel, and there are two of them.  The 2nd funnel occurs at the end of this week.  With several exceptions, a policy bill that fails to pass out of a committee in both chambers is ineligible for debate on the floor for the rest of the session.  As we mention often: A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

A few bills that are of interest to Justice Reform Consortium and are theoretically alive as of this date:

House File 2395 – An Act relating to the criminal elements and penalties for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles and including effective date provisions.  This bill was requested by JRC.  It passed out of the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, Feb. 15.  This bill must pass the House and survive passage from a subcommittee and standing committee in the Senate before Friday in order to stay alive.  JRC SUPPORTS this legislation.  In the recent issue, we reported that this bill had been amended prior to passing out of committee.  That information was incorrect.  See our disclaimer below. HF 2394 – An Act relating to criminal acts committed on or against critical infrastructure property and providing penalties.  JRC OPPOSES.  This bill provides for a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and violative of the Eighth Amendment[1].

“Critical infrastructure sabotage” means any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. However, “critical infrastructure sabotage” does not include an accidental interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public caused by a person in the performance of the person’s work duties.”

What do you think?  Does this language include a Labor strike?  A possible protest protected by the First Amendment?  Someone running into an electric pole that knocks out power for a large portion of a city?  We consider the language vague and overbroad.

See also Senate File 2235.  Both HF 2394 and SF 2235 are funnel-proof.  That means that the issue (either bill) is eligible for debate in its respective chamber until the very last day of the session.

Senate File 2382 is an Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  We wrote about this in the last issue of the JRC Newsletter.  To our surprise, this bill passed easily out of the Iowa Senate with very little opposition or amendments.  JRC strongly OPPOSES this bill.  Please thank Senators Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) and Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant) for having the courage to oppose this ogre of a bill.  JRC believe this bill includes the constitutionally-prohibited act of logrolling.

House Joint Resolution 2010 and Senate Joint Resolution 2010:  These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.

SF 2280, formerly SSB 1177 – An Act relating to law enforcement profiling by standardizing collection and centralizing the compilation and reporting of officer stop and compliant data, providing for officer training, creating a community policing advisory board, providing for penalties and remedies, and including effective date provisions.  Anti-Racial profiling.  This bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without amendments and is eligible for debate in the Senate soon.  Please contact your state senator and urge your senator to support this bill.  JRC proudly SUPPORTS this bill.

SF 2117.  An Act relating to public funding and regulatory matters and making, reducing, transferring, and supplementing appropriations for expenditures in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and including effective date provisions.  JRC is not declared on this bill.  It is a bill of interest, however, in that it cuts $3,405,688 from the Department of Corrections budget from now through the 30th of June.  Other than the Regents and the Dept. of Human Services, this is the biggest cut out of the budget.  For comparison, The Economic Development Authority is cut a paltry $132,000.

This list could be bigger, but it’s best to keep it manageable.  Let us know if there is a bill that interests you.  We’ll do what we can to incorporate it into future reports.******************************************

CORRECTION:  In the February 18 issue of the JRC Newsletter, we reported that HF 2266 – An Act relating to the restoration of the rights of citizenship, and providing for a contingent effective date, failed to pass the Legislature’s 1st funnel deadline.  That is incorrect, and we thank Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) for bringing to our attention.  HF 2266 did pass out of the Judiciary Committee and has been renumbered as HF 2429.  However, it was amended to provide for an interim study committee on the matter.  JRC remains in SUPPORT of this bill.

If you spot incorrect information, please let us know.  We strive to produce an accurate account of legislative activity in Iowa as it pertains to criminal justice.  We may make a mistake from time to time, but we admit our infallibility and work to give you a newsletter that we hope will inform you on issues not covered by mainstream media or other outlets.

[1] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

February 18 Newsletter

Stayin’ Alive

The Iowa Legislature has a process of eliminating certain bills from the in-box so that it can move on to more important issues, like the budget.  It’s called the funnel, and there are two of them.  We met the 1st funnel last week.  Accordingly, most bills that didn’t pass out of a committee are ineligible for debate on the floor for the rest of the session.  Ahem!  A bill may become ineligible, but an issue NEVER dies!

And speaking of death, all capital punishment bills are no longer in a position to be debated.  However, the issue remains.

The following is a list of bills that are of interest to Justice Reform Consortium and have safely made it out of a committee prior to last Friday’s deadline:

House Study Bill 618 – An Act relating to the criminal elements and penalties for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles, and including effective date provisions.  This bill was requested by JRC.  It passed out of the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, Feb. 15, but it was amended to strike portions of the bill that pertain to adult corrections.  The amendment leaves language that enhances the penalty for a person having sex with a juvenile in a juvenile facility.  JRC SUPPORTS this legislation even after amendment.

HF 2394 – An Act relating to criminal acts committed on or against critical infrastructure property and providing penalties.  JRC OPPOSES.  The original bill, HSB 603, carried a class “B” felony and a fine of $100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  JRC expressed concerns that the fine could be considered and “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and violative of the Eighth Amendment[1].   The bill that came out of the House Public Safety Committee, HF 2394, tweaks the fine to not less than $85,000 nor more than $100,000.  Those reductions are not enough to satisfy the concerns of JRC.  See also Senate Study Bill 3062 and Senate File 2235.  Both HF 2394 and SF 2235 are funnel-proof.  That means that the issue (either bill) is eligible for debate in its respective chamber until the very last day of the session.

HF 2389 – An Act prohibiting the tampering with an electronic handling device attached to or worn by a dog or attached to an item worn by a dog, and providing penalties.  Some legislation screams “WHAT!”  Do we really need a law that addresses the tampering of a device on a dog?  How many times does this happen in Iowa?  Bills like this are called “Code Clutter”, and for a very good reason.  If the law is enacted, the language sits in the Code without ever being used, thereby making the Iowa Code thicker year-by-year.  The written Code has already ballooned from two volumes in the early 1960s to seven volumes in 2017.  It’s too bad that a prosecutor cannot get creative with charging a violator with trespassing, criminal mischief, or another closely-related law.  Often, the prosecutor did choose an alternative charge currently in the books, and lost.  That is why we often see these bills that pertain to a particular circumstance.  Of course, JRC OPPOSES legislation like this that places unnecessary laws with accompanying punishment into the Iowa Code.

SF 2196 – An Act modifying criminal code provisions relating to criminal records, penalties, prosecutions, appeals, driving privileges, and postconviction relief, and including effective date provisions.  This bill has everything but the kitchen sink.  JRC believes there may be a constitutional problem with the title of the bill.  Article III, Section 29 of the Iowa Constitution says: “Every act shall embrace but one subject, and matters properly connected therewith; which subject shall be expressed in the title. But if any subject shall be embraced in an act which shall not be expressed in the title, such act shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be expressed in the title.”  The title of the bill relates to the “criminal code”, but it covers so much more.  The bill addresses subjects such as the “medical examiner” and “drivers’ licenses”.

Our main objection is a segment of the bill in which convictions in another state may be “counted as previous offenses” for the purpose of enhancing penalties.  JRC expressed our view that this provision may violate the Iowa Supreme Court’s opinion in Young v. State, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015) “conclude that under the right to counsel provision of article I, section 10 of the Iowa Constitution[2], a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.” The problem arises when two persons have similar circumstances in Iowa, but have not had similar circumstances in others states.  An individual who has been convicted of a simple misdemeanor in another state, and has been afforded the right to counsel is going to be charged with a subsequent offense, enhancing the penalty.  However, an individual who was convicted in another state of the same simple misdemeanor, but has not been afforded the right to an attorney at the time, will have a legitimate right to invoke the holding in Young.  The two individuals will not be treated identically, raising the issue of equal protection under the Iowa Constitution’s Article I, Section 6[3].

There are many other problems with the bill.  Philip Mears, an attorney in Iowa City who specializes in post-conviction relief, believes that three closely-related sections of the bill are troublesome. Section 41 of the bill “takes away the right to appeal, even in felony cases if the person pled guilty. If a person appeals after a guilty plea there are many reasons why the person might appeal. They might appeal the sentence” or may believe their lawyer was ineffective enough to have another court to review their case.

Section 43 eliminates the ability to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal. “That only can be successful if the lawyer was really bad. In that case the defendant should not have to sit in prison waiting for a post-conviction which can take years.”

Section 44 pertains to verdicts being challenged on direct appeal. This provision would change the way courts look at evidence in deciding cases.

The entire bill should be something that has been worked on with defense attorneys, and other entities that have different view points from those who did have input into this bill – law enforcement, prosecutors, etc.  There are too many questions about this bill as written.  Expect amendments.  JRC strongly OPPOSES this bill.SSB 3040 and HJR 2003 – These two pieces of legislation would start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to include a victims’ rights amendment.  Called Marsy’s Law, JRC OPPOSES this measure.  We cannot say it any better than the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has said:

Invest in comprehensive victim rights and potections for victims of violent crimes – ICADV is unwavering in our support for all victims. We oppose Iowa’s Marsy’s Law (SSB 3040; HJR 2003) because experience tells us there are much more effective ways to support victims. Amending the constitution is a symbolic gesture that won’t make the criminal justice system any friendlier to victims. Establishing rights without legitimate remedy gives false hope to victims and diverts resources away from systems and services that can meet the comprehensive needs of Iowa victims. We believe this bill negatively impacts services and support for all victims, including the vast majority who will never set foot in a courtroom. The proposal contradicts essential principals of American justice and would upend our severely underfunded legal system to the detriment of victims. Iowa law already includes comprehensive victim rights and protections. Before amending the constitution, we should ensure we have adequately supported the systems and services that enable victims to access and benefit from statutory protections. The insensitivity and indifference experienced by many victims is not a constitutional failing. It is a failing of common decency by people, society and social systems themselves. Click here to read our full statement on Iowa’s Marsy’s Law. Click here to read our Victim Service Providers concerns of Marsy’s Law

SF 2280, formerly SSB 1177 – An Act relating to law enforcement profiling by standardizing collection and centralizing the compilation and reporting of officer stop and compliant data, providing for officer training, creating a community policing advisory board, providing for penalties and remedies, and including effective date provisions.  Anti-Racial profiling.  This bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without amendments and is eligible for debate in the Senate soon.  Please talk to your state senator and ask your senator to support this bill with the Iowa/Nebraska NAACP amendment.  The amendment has yet to be introduced.  We will let you know when it is available.  JRC proudly SUPPORTS this bill.

SF 2117.  An Act relating to public funding and regulatory matters and making, reducing, transferring, and supplementing appropriations for expenditures in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and including effective date provisions.  JRC is not declared on this bill.  It is a bill of interest, however, in that it cuts $3,405,688 from the Department of Corrections budget from now through the 30th of June.  If you’re interested, there is a public hearing on the bill on Monday, February 19th at 11:00 am in Room 103 of the Capitol (Former Supreme Court Room).  You may sign up to speak, or submit comments here.

HF 2266 – An Act relating to the restoration of the rights of citizenship, and providing for a contingent effective date.  This bill, providing for a better method of restoring felon voting rights than the current process, was a pleasant distraction from the other bills that seemed to be mean-spirited (with the exception of the Anti-Racial Profiling bill above).  A subcommittee meeting was held last week, and, even though the bill did not make the 1st funnel deadline, there seems to be a degree of willingness to study the issue and move it along in the future.  JRC had SUPPORTED this bill.

There are other bills that made it and didn’t make it, and we don’t intend to overwhelm you.  More information on live bills and ineligible bills we be provided as the General Assembly moves into the final 2/3 of the 2018 session.

JRC Works Toward Equity On Telephone Rates

JRC has worked tirelessly with the Iowa Ombudsman to get the Iowa Department of Corrections to provide reasonable rates for telephone calls to and from IDOC facilities.  That effort was successful.  However, most county jails do not have a system of accountability with regard to commissions or revenues generated from telephone calls, and the rates are sky high. Currently, it is up to each county to consider the issues below prior to contract negotiations with telephone providers.

Below are talking points to consider when discussing this matter with your county supervisors and sheriffs.

Background

  • Studies have shown that offenders and offender’s families (especially children) benefit from more contact with an incarcerated loved one.  Most people who enter jail do not have the money to pay $.50 per minute for a phone call (20 minute phone call is $10).  Families usually pay for the phone calls and spend a lot of money staying in contact with their loved one.
  • Due to high rates offenders were paying, and jail commissions artificially inflating the cost of a phone call, the FCC began regulating inmate calling services in 2012. They were successful keeping interstate rates to $.21 per minute for pre-paid calling and .25 per minute for collect calls. The providers challenged these regulations and the FCC was not successful regulating local and intrastate calls.
  • In response to lower interstate rates and to keep jail commissions the same, providers raised the rates of local and intrastate Arguably, local and intrastate calls represent a large percentage of most jail telephone calls. This is counter-intuitive: historically local and intrastate calls cost less than an interstate call.
  • While the FCC investigated, the Iowa Ombudsman pursued this issue with the Board of Corrections and the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC).  As time passed and the FCC regulation efforts increased, the IDOC reduced their rates to $.11 per minute for interstate, intrastate, and local calls. International rates also dramatically decreased to reflect actual costs (no profit) or 11 cents per minute, whichever is higher.  Not surprisingly, when DOC lowered the telephone rates the number of calls increased and revenues increased. The IDOC and Board of Corrections is in a position to again lower the rate offenders pay.  Per the Iowa Administrative Rules, the telephone commissions can only be spent if determined to “benefit the offender” and it must be approved by the Board of Corrections.  This decision is conducted in open session.

Moving Forward: County Jails

  • To maintain a level of accountability and to be consistent with IDOC, the county should maintain a separate account for telephone revenues (beyond the cost to maintain the system) and telephone expenditures should be approved by the Board of Supervisors (or other governmental body subject to the Iowa Open Meetings law).  Since offenders are paying for the fund, it is reasonable that expenditures from the account should directly benefit the offender.  Directly benefiting the offender would exclude salaries of security staff, overhead, or general operating expenses, but might include increased opportunity for treatment, education, and recreation while in jail.
  • Rates offenders pay for telephone calls should be “just, fair, and reasonable” and based on a per minute basis.
  • Contracts with providers should seek the lowest possible rate for offenders without compromising security or quality of service.
  • Where budget options are limited, the county has the ability to raise the rates for luxury items (which might include junk food), meanwhile treating telephone calls as essential.  Ideally the rate offenders pay would reflect actual costs (i.e. no commission provided back to the jail to artificially inflate the rate offenders pay).

 

 

[1] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

[2] Rights of persons accused. SEC. 10. In all criminal prosecutions, and in cases involving the life, or liberty of an individual the accused shall have a right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; to be informed of the accusation against him, to have a copy of the same when demanded; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for his witnesses; and, to have the assistance of counsel.

[3] Laws uniform. SEC. 6. All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.

JRC Newsleetter, February 4, 2018

Death and Taxes

Ben Franklin is attributed with the quote, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.  That’s certainly the theme of this Iowa Legislative Session.

Justice Reform Consortium is not involved in tax legislation; it’s far from our mission. Tax bills will be emerging from House and Senate Ways and Means Committees within the next few months, and almost everyone at the Capitol will be looking over those bills with a microscope – but not JRC.  Death, on the other hand, has become our business even before the gavel fell to mark the beginning of the 2nd session of Iowa’s Eighty-Seventh General Assembly.

Along with Iowans Against the Death Penalty, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the ACLU of Iowa, the Iowa Attorney General, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, and many other organizations and individuals, JRC has been working for over a year to obtain enough votes to defeat each and every measure introduced so far.

There are five bills in the Iowa General Assembly that would, if enacted, reinstate the death penalty in Iowa after a hiatus of over 50 years.  Senate File 355 and Senate File 336 were introduced last year, and for all practical purposes are technically still alive for this year.  House Study Bill 569 received a subcommittee hearing on Thursday, Feb. 1st; and even though the subcommittee recommended passage (Reps. Steven Holt (R-Denison) & Greg Heartsill (R-Melcher-Dallas) voting to advance; Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines voting no), the bill is not expected to pass out of the House Public Safety Committee and is most likely dead for the year (no pun intended).

Senate Study Bill 3042 was introduced earlier this year in the Iowa Senate.  The bill would create the offense of capital murder in instances in which a law enforcement officer was murdered.  The chances of passing this bill became slim when two of the three members assigned to the subcommittee were anti-death penalty legislators.

Senate Study Bill 3134 is the most recent bill to be introduced.  Again, this bill has been introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The subcommittee of Senators Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), Chair; Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig); Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs); Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant); and Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) have less than two weeks to move the bill out of subcommittee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee must approve it prior to February 15th (First Funnel Deadline) in order for the bill to be debated by the full Senate.  Keep in mind that, even though a bill may no longer be eligible for debate, an issue can live on forever through the process of amendments or leadership bills.Below are YouTube links to the 50-minutes hearing in the House on House Study Bill 569 on Thursday, Feb. 1.  Iowans Against Death Penalty is expected to post all written testimony collected that day.  Not everyone was provided a chance to speak. We will have that link as soon as it is available.

 

HSB 569, Part 1

HSB 569, Part 2

HSB 569, Part 3

HSB 569, Part 4

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

Mike Cervantes – Director of Inside Out Reentry Community 319-621-6263 insideoutreentry@gmail.com

Catrina Carter – Director of Reentry and Treatment Services for Iowa DOC 515-725-5713 (office)  515-314-2645 (cell)

Cord Overton – Communications Director for Iowa DOC   515-725-5707 (office) cord.overton@iowa.gov

Selected links:

 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/308092 How to Employ the Formerly Incarcerated to Help Grow Your Business. Entrepreneur Magazine. Carol Roth   JANUARY 29, 2018.

https://thecrimereport.org/2018/01/25/how-pseudo-science-turns-sex-offenders-into-permanent-outlaws/ How ‘Pseudoscience’ Turns Sex Offenders into Permanent Outlaws. The Crime Report. Appellate Squawk,  JANUARY 25, 2018.

http://www.iowarelatedissues.com/ Iowa Prison Data, John Neff, Iowa City.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-florida-election/floridas-ban-on-felons-voting-ruled-unconstitutional-by-judge-idUSKBN1FM09L?utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_content=5a73fae004d30168f72b3f1d&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook Florida’s Ban on Felons Voting Ruled Unconstitutional by Judge.  ReutersDan Whitcomb. FEBRUARY 1, 2018.

 UPCOMING EVENTS

Iowans Against the Death Penalty will hold a general membership meeting at Northwest Community of Christ Church, 3003 62nd Street in Des Moines (3 blocks west of Merle Hay Rd. on Urbandale Ave.) on Thursday, February 8th at 6:30 pm.

House Study Bill 569 is “virtually” dead.  It doesn’t look as though it will pass the full House Public Safety Committee.  However, there remains four bills in the Senate, one of which could move quickly at any time.

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 SAVE THE DATE!

 IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:  Mark your calendars for the evening of October 8th. The Iowa Coalition for Juvenile Justice (a focus group of Iowa CURE) is bringing Jeanne Bishop, author of the moving book, “Change of Heart, Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister’s Killer”.  (Tentative location is the court room of the Drake Law Center.)

Ms. Bishop’s sister, brother-in-law and their unborn child were brutally killed in their home 25 years ago.  In her book she tells of her journey confronting and finally reconciling with the man who took their lives.

Brian Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of “Just Mercy” says, “This is an extraordinary witness for survivors of crime and all of us who seek a more compassionate thoughtful and responsible way to manage the tragic ways we hurt each other.”

You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear Jeanne Bishop and her inspiring story of healing and peace.

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The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., February 20th at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

MISSION:  To bring together and inform individuals and groups concerned about women in the Iowa correctional system and to act on their behalf.

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

Bring your lunch.  The place and time are consistent throughout the year.  The meetings are always held on the third Tuesday of the month, and always held from noon to 1:00 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church located at 800 East 12th Street in Des Moines.  The location is a block west of East High School.  Please contact Kirk for more information.

Voices to be Heard is a support group for families and children of an incarcerated loved one. The group gathers to support and comfort those who know too well the grief that comes to those left behind when someone they love is incarcerated. The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Wesley United Methodist Church (800 East 12th St. in Des Moines) from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.  Potluck begins at 5:30 p.m. meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.  The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes.  It is a good idea to contact Melissa Gradischnig ahead of time because a head count is preferred for the pot luck.  Contact Melissa at 515/229-2645 for more information.

Voices to be Heard also meets in Cedar Rapids:

Voices to be Heard, Cedar Rapids

2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month

6 to 7pm

Lundby Townhomes, 845 31st Av. SW.

Contact, Melissa 515-229-2645

1st JRC Newsletter of 2018

Vol. 9 #1 January 22, 2018

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

Last year, a Senate Subcommittee met to discuss Senate File 88, an “act relating to the use of a simulated firearm or simulated explosive when committing a robbery, the criminal offense of intimidation, or other crimes, and providing penalties.”  It didn’t go anywhere.  The bill was brought forward by the Iowa County Attorneys Association since robberies with a simulated gun have the same traumatic effect on a victim as does a real gun.

This year, a bill similar to SF 88 Senate Study Bill 3006 has been introduced and a subcommittee has met to discuss its merits.  SSB 3006 moves the involvement of “simulated firearm” from the robbery section of the Code to the definition section of the criminal Code. This broad sweep of what constitutes a “simulated” firearm is ill-advised for the following reasons and continues to carry grave concerns about the potential effect of enactment.

A “simulated firearm” cannot be listed as a dangerous weapon because it is NOT a dangerous weapon.  The definition of dangerous weapon is

any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal, and which is capable of inflicting death upon a human being when used in the manner for which it was designed [and includes] any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being.

Iowa Code section 702.7 (2017)(Emphasis added.)

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” but you can’t list the pen as a dangerous weapon.  Actually, you can.  A pen, along with a simulated firearm, are already included in the definition of “Dangerous Weapon”.

Additionally, any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being, is a dangerous weapon.

Iowa Code section 702.7 (2017)(Emphasis added.)

Perhaps it’s a stretch to think that a pen or a simulated gun “is capable of inflicting death upon a human being”, but it’s not impossible.  Federal case law acknowledges that an unworkable gun or an unloaded gun is a dangerous weapon (“a gun can cause harm when used as a bludgeon”), even though the Code definition does not necessarily include those devices. U.S. v. York, 830 F.2d 885, 891 (8th Cir. 1987).  There is no need to expand the definition to cover every device.  A vague definition of a simulated firearm is broad enough to cover an incident in which a person uses an exposed index finger with the thumb pointing up.  It will include a paint gun, some cigarette lighters designed to look like pistols, and a water (squirt) gun.

From a practical point, if committing a crime with a real firearm or a simulated firearm carries the same penalty, why would a perpetrator settle for the simulated weapon?

The impact on our criminal justice system, particularly the potential increase in our prison population and future workloads of community-based corrections could be pushed beyond manageable limits.  The fiscal impact statement on SF 88 contains a significant minority impact. SSB 3006 possibly could have an exacerbated impact on minorities.

Those who use simulated devices are already being convicted of offenses that carry significant sentences (i.e. State v. Tate, 885 NW2d. 220 (IA Ct. App. 2016)(Defendant was sentenced to 10 years for 2nd degree robbery when the jury found no gun was used, although defendant had lifted his shirt to imply he had a weapon.))

We oppose the bill on the arguments mentioned above, but we are in the process of developing some language that we intend to offer as an alternative.  We understand the trauma a person experiences when being held up, whether the perpetrator has a weapon or not.  Our solution will be to offer counseling to those affected by the incident.

 Death Penalty Legislation

A bill to bring back the death penalty was introduced Thursday in the Iowa Senate. Senate Study Bill 3042 would allow the penalty of death for the first-degree murder of a peace officer. Justice Reform Consortium strongly opposes capital punishment.  See the NOTICE below about Iowans Against the Death Penalty General Membership meeting on Feb. 8th.

 Lifetime Registration

House File 163 is a bill that establishes a new tier of sex offender registration.  Essentially, it will require every sex offender to register for life.  Under the bill’s provisions, if a sex offender is not currently on a lifetime registration, the sex offender is required to continue a limited registration upon completion of the offender’s requirements.  The new requirement would have all sex offenders, even those that have completed their registration and other requirements, including those moving into Iowa from another state, to register with the sheriff.  The registration would not be accessible to the public.  Justice Reform Consortium believes this is more punitive than remedial, and therefore will not be able to stand up to a constitutional challenge.

The most recent authority on this matter is the United States Supreme Court decision of Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), written almost 15 years ago.  The Court held that Alaska’s sex offender registry was not punitive, and therefore did not violate the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto clause.

However, things have changed.

“If the intention of the legislature was to impose punishment, that ends the inquiry [and the registry is unconstitutional]. If, however, the intention was to enact a regulatory scheme that is civil and nonpunitive, we must further examine whether the statutory scheme is “`so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate [the State’s] intention’ to deem it `civil.'” Ibid. (quoting United States v. Ward, 448 U. S. 242, 248-249 (1980)).” Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 92 (2003).  Creating a new tier of offenders who must register is punitive, especially considering that new facts have been discovered in the past decade and a half.

“The [Alaska] [L]egislature found that “sex offenders pose a high risk of reoffending,” and identified “protecting the public from sex offenders” as the “primary governmental interest” of the law. 1994 Alaska Sess. Laws ch. 41, § 1.”  Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 93 (2003).  That statement is no longer true.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that a mere 5 percent of sex offenders are rearrested for another sex crime within 3 years of being released from prison.  https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm   Five percent is hardly a “high risk”.  A challenge to this scheme today could invite the temptation of the Supreme Court to overturn the decision in Smith.  At the time of Smith, very little was known about the recidivism rates of sex offenders.  Justice Kennedy, who wrote the Smith v. Doe decision, had also written the Kansas v. Hendricks decision, which led to civil commitment laws, and based his information “on his own language from [the Hendricks decision]. It characterized the risk of a sex offender committing another sex crime as “frightening and high” — as high as 80 percent, Kennedy held.”  https://psmag.com/news/whats-the-real-rate-of-sex-crime-recidivism Sex offenders who have been committed under Hendricks are violent sexual predators and have a mental abnormality or defect.  Not every sex offender is a “sexually violent predator”; far from it.

It is the sexually violent predators in Iowa’s civil commitment unit in Cherokee that consist of the group of offenders in which Justice Kennedy referred, and not the bulk of sex offenders who must register under Iowa’s current registry system.  “So how close to the truth is Kennedy’s “frightening and high” assertion? “There’s no empirical evidence to support that statement, [] We have lots and lots of recidivism research over like 25 years … and all of the recidivism studies are remarkably consistent that the number of people re-arrested for a new sex crime is somewhere between 5 and 15 percent.””  Id.

If a Tier IV category is established through HF 163, the burden is on the state to defend the law’s intent that it remains a civil matter, rather than a matter that is punitive in nature.  If the state fails in its arguments, flood gates open to continuing litigation of constitutional questions, such as:  Ex post facto; cruel & unusual punishment, due process, and others.

JRC is watching closely the progress of this legislation.

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

Inside Out Reentry, with support from the Iowa Department of Corrections, is pleased to announce a new guide offering resources and services for those returning from incarceration.

  • WHAT:  A newly-created collaborative guide to reentry support resources across the state.  This database provides contacts to non-department of corrections resources facilitating return to the community. The guide includes: substance abuse services, housing options, mental health resources, AA/NA, support groups and much more.  The information has been made available at all nine Iowa correctional institutions (as of Dec. 15), in addition to the work release residential facilities.  It is posted online at:  http://www.insideoutreentry.com/ and will be updated every 6 months.

This guide was created by Inside Out Reentry Community with the help of Iowa correctional staff from several institutions.  We invite everyone to help us supplement this information to make our service directory complete.  Please contact us at:  insideoutreentry@gmail.com to add information or make corrections.

Inside Out Reentry Community is a non-profit organization based in Johnson County that provides comprehensive reentry support for those returning to our community after incarceration.  Inside Out opened its doors in January 2015 and assists returning citizens with employment, housing, connecting to services, peer support, mentoring, and more.

  • WHY:  The Iowa Department of Corrections estimates that 95% of current inmates will eventually be released to their communities. The moment of release represents a critical point in time that can make or break an individual’s successful reintegration into society.  Our communities are better off when the women and men leaving prison find success in moving forward.

The Council of State Governments in a 2005 study states that ‘ideally, an individual in prison has worked on cultivating relationships with community-based organizations and support systems as part of a larger reentry plan.”  By making these resources available before someone is released from prison, work release or jail, Iowa can foster connections with such organizations and support systems and thus, encourage successful reentry.

Besides making this database available in Iowa’s prisons and work release centers, we also hope to make this information available to anyone who needs support after serving time in jail.

  • WHO BENEFITS:  Anybody who is looking for support and assistance following incarceration. Family members and friends of those returning from incarceration.  (see testimonial below)

Contacts

Mike Cervantes  – Director of Inside Out Reentry Community  319-621-6263  insideoutreentry@gmail.com

Catrina Carter – Director of Reentry and Treatment Services for Iowa DOC    515-725-5713 (office)   515-314-2645 (cell)

Cord Overton – Communications Director for Iowa DOC   515-725-5707 (office)  cord.overton@iowa.gov

Testimonial:

Dec. 19, 2017

I wanted to express my gratitude to the staff and volunteers at Inside Out Reentry.  I am from Des Moines and with my mandatory on a drug offense expiring on Jan. 20, 2018, I was recently run up for parole.

While incarcerated, I have involved myself in many groups, activities and inmate council to prepare myself to transition smoothly and successfully into society and the work force.  All of these “inside” activities were beneficial for me, yet I was still lacking in community-based connections necessary for my release.  Housing was an especially difficult task for me to complete.  However, with your recent state-wide resource directory and guide, I was able to personally connect with the director of an organization in Des Moines who quickly accepted me into one of their houses.  It completed my parole plan and my parole was granted on the 14th of December.

This new guide is a great resource for men and women facing the challenges of release.  Thank you so much to Inside Out for sharing this resource with all the institutions across Iowa.

Tom Schilling

IMCC/Oakdale

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Iowans Against the Death Penalty will hold a general membership meeting at Northwest Community of Christ Church, 3003 62nd Street in Des Moines (3 blocks west of Merle Hay Rd. on Urbandale Ave.) on Thursday, February 8th at 6:30 pm.

Senate Study Bill 3042 was introduced on Thursday, January 18th.  SSB 3042 is a bill for an act creating a capital murder offense by establishing the penalty of death for murder in the first degree of a peace officer.

SSB 3042 has been assigned to the subcommittee consisting of Senators Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig); Amy Sinclair (R- Allerton); and Rich Taylor (D- Mount Pleasant).  No subcommittee meetings have been scheduled at this time.

Pod cast of Wednesday’s discussion on WHO on the death penalty: Should Iowa Reinstate The Death Penalty? (Jeff Angelo-Hour 1-1/17) https://whoradio.iheart.com/featured/jeff-angelo-on-the-radio/content/2018-01-17-should-iowa-reinstate-the-death-penalty-jeff-angelo-hour-1-117/#.WmEU4KGJ4EE.email

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SAVE THE DATE!

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:  Mark your calendars for the evening of October 8th. The Iowa Coalition for Juvenile Justice (a focus group of Iowa CURE) is bringing Jeanne Bishop, author of the moving book, “Change of Heart, Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister’s Killer”.  (Tentative location is the court room of the Drake Law Center.)

Ms. Bishop’s sister, brother-in-law and their unborn child were brutally killed in their home 25 years ago.  In her book she tells of her journey confronting and finally reconciling with the man who took their lives.

Brian Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of “Just Mercy” says,  “This is an extraordinary witness for survivors of crime and all of us who seek a more compassionate thoughtful and responsible way to manage the tragic ways we hurt each other”

You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear Jeanne Bishop and her inspiring story of healing and peace.

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The January meeting of Iowa CURE will be held on January 28th (Sunday) at 2 p.m. at Trinity LA United Methodist Church (1548 8th Street)  Our legislative advocates: Marty Ryan and Stephanie Fawkes-Lee will be with us to give us an up to date rundown on what is happening during this legislative session and how we  can influence our legislators.  Please plan to attend

Justice Reform Consortium Final Report for 2017 Legislative Session

Vol. 8 #9 July 16, 2017

Final Report

Attached to this email is the final report of the Justice Reform Consortium for the 2017 Legislative Session.  This year’s report is a Voting Record, consisting of ten bills in the House, and ten bills in the Senate.  Only eight of the bills reflect votes taken in both chambers.

If you have any questions about why a particular legislator voted the way he or she did, you will have to contact that legislator.  The process we used was to consider every bill JRC had registered on, either in support or against, and track only those bills with a corresponding chamber vote.  We did not include bills in which JRC was declared as “undecided”.

We hope this record sparks discussion, especially with your legislator.  You should be able to have a good relationship with your representative and senator, whether you like the positions they take, or not.  Learning from each other may be the catalyst to change.  You never know.

Selected links:

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/19/copays/ The steep cost of medical co-pays in prison puts health at risk.  Prison Policy Initiative.  Wendy Sawyer APRIL 19, 2017.

Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History by Brennan Center for Justice, May, 2017
“One in every 13 voting-age African Americans cannot vote, a disenfranchisement rate more than four times greater than that of all other Americans.”

https://www.splcenter.org/news/2017/06/27/federal-judge-splc-case-orders-drastic-overhaul-alabama-prison-mental-health-care-system Federal judge in SPLC case orders drastic overhaul of Alabama prison mental health care system

UPCOMING EVENTS
Please consider being a member or contributor!

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

Dues are a minimum of $15 per year.  Checks may be made out to IADP and sent to:

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

A tax-deductible gift may be made to the “IADP Fund”, but a contribution to the “Fund” will not make you a member.  Contributions to the IADP Fund” may be sent to the same P.O. Box in Des Moines.

Members will receive notices of meetings scheduled.  IADP would like to expand throughout the state.  If you are interested in being a county contact for your county, please let us know when submitting your contribution.

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The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., July 18th at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

Marty Ryan and Stephanie Fawkes-Lee will be featured speakers at the July meeting.

MISSION:  To bring together and inform individuals and groups concerned about women in the Iowa correctional system and to act on their behalf.

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

Bring your lunch.  The place and time are consistent throughout the year.  The meetings are always held on the third Tuesday of the month, and always held from noon to 1:00 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church located at 800 East 12th Street in Des Moines.  The location is a block west of East High School.  Please contact Kirk for more information.

 
Voices to be Heard is a support group for families and children of an incarcerated loved one. The group gathers to support and comfort those who know too well the grief that comes to those left behind when someone they love is incarcerated. The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Wesley United Methodist Church (800 East 12th St. in Des Moines) from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.  Potluck begins at 5:30 p.m. meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.  The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes.  It is a good idea to contact Melissa Gradischnig ahead of time because a head count is preferred for the pot luck.  Contact Melissa at 515/229-2645 for more information.

Voices to be Heard has formed also in Cedar Rapids.  Please contact:  Voices to be Heard, Voices.Heard@yahoo.com. Sue Hutchins, 252 S. 22nd St., Marion, IA 52302.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017.  You may copy, download and print the information in this newsletter provided you do so in an unaltered manner, with full copyright acknowledgement and website link.  This newsletter may also be found online in PDF format at:  http://justicereformconsortium.org/?page_id=19

Distributing this newsletter, or any part thereof, for commercial use is prohibited.

 

 

Vol. 8 #6 April 2, 2017

What’s Going On?

This newsletter comes out every other week during the Iowa Legislative Session.  Many people won’t realize it, but last week was a scheduled week for the newsletter to be sent.  We held off a week so that we could be timely with bills that remain alive.

With less than a month to go in this legislative session (hopefully) the following bills remain eligible for debate (not every bill is listed; only a select few that are of interest to JRC) (not listed in any particular order):

House File 579: See Funny Sentencing Reform below.

House File 604: Establishes a motor vehicle insurance verification program and establishes fees.  JRC OPPOSES.

Senate File 403:  A bill making the failure to return rental property a crime.  JRC OPPOSES. See The Wrong Use of Tax Dollars in the previous edition of the JRC Newsletter.

Senate File 234: Changing the status of driving while looking at a text message, email, playing a game, etc., from a secondary offense to a primary offense.  JRC OPPOSES.

Senate File 416:  This is a bill relating to the authority of cities to regulate and restrict the occupancy of residential rental property. See A Good Opinion On HF 161.  JRC SUPPORTS.

House File 296:  A bill for an act relating to controlled substances, including by temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, modifying the penalties for imitation controlled substances and certain controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and providing penalties. JRC OPPOSES.

Senate File 415;  A bill for an act providing immunity from certain criminal offenses and prohibiting certain disciplinary sanctions for persons who report, seek, or require emergency assistance for alcohol overdoses or protection from certain crimes, and modifying penalties. This is better known as the “Good Samaritan Law”.  Unfortunately, it covers only alcohol and not drugs.  JRC SUPPORTS.

Senate File 446:  Forfeiture reform.  It doesn’t go near as far as it should, or as far as we would like, but it IS an improvement over the current law and practices. JRC SUPPORTS.

Funny Sentencing Reform

House File 579 is a bill that is called “sentencing reform”.  However, is it?  The middle of the bill does address the matter of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates several of those requirements.  It doesn’t eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences, but it’s a good start.  That is all we say about the bill that is good.  The rest of the bill stinks!

Public safety was ignored as a provision was added to the original bill, House File 377.  That provision sounds like the old mantra “tough on crime”, but it’s senseless, just like most “tough on crime” proposals of the previous 30 years.  The provision prevents a person convicted of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer to serve every bit of the sentence imposed.  Tough, huh?  Did no one consider that the person will walk out of prison at some time (quite possible depending upon the defendant’s age at conviction), without any outside supervision.  All that hate and anger that has built up over the years will need to find a way out.  At that point in time, what does a potential cop killer have left to fear?

Justice Reform Consortium opposes HF 579 for several other reasons, one of those reasons has us wondering where in the world the Iowa County Attorneys Association, or the Attorney General, or both, came up with a 5:1 ratio on the disparity between crack/powder cocaine.  There is nothing scientific or rational about the numbers that appear to have been pulled from thin air.  Alternatively, the Iowa Public Safety Advisory Board has studied the matter and recommended that the ratio between the two pharmacologically identical substances be 5:3.

Since its first report to the Iowa Legislature in December of 2010, the Iowa Public Safety Advisory Board has continuously recommended a ratio of 5:3 between threshold amounts of crack/cocaine.  The report, highlighted in the previous sentence, contains the following:

PSAB decision:

Amend IA Code 124.401 for the amounts of crack cocaine.

  1. 124.401(a)(3) to greater than 125 grams
  2. 124.401(b)(3) to greater than 35 grams and not more than 125 grams
  3. 124.401(c)(3) to equal to or less than 35 grams

The PSAB voted to approve the above legislation, which reduces the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine penalties, by a vote of 9 in favor and 6 against. Further discussion led to a consensus by the PSAB that the amounts and attendant penalties for the two forms of cocaine should be equalized. However, the PSAB disagrees on how this should be accomplished.

The Specific Crimes subcommittee is chaired by Michelle Leonard, Dallas Center Police Chief. Members of the committee are Sherri Soich, Stephanie Fawkes-Lee, Kim Cheeks, Gary Kendall, Clarence Key, Jr., Ross Loder, Lettie Prell, and Tomas Rodriguez.

The subcommittee discussed the current disparity in sentences between powder and crack cocaine. Information provided to the committee included a recommendation from the Department of Corrections, data on prison admissions by race, and data on drug seizure amounts.

The Department of Corrections recommended that the threshold amounts of crack be increased for the various penalty class levels for the following reasons:

  1. There is no rational basis to punish crack cocaine offenses more severely than powder cocaine offenses. Numerous studies have shown that the physiological and psychotropic effects of crack and powder cocaine are the same, and the drugs are now widely acknowledged as pharmacologically identical. Dr. Glen Hanson, Ph.D., D.D.S., Acting Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in testimony to the U.S. Sentencing Commission on February 25, 2002 provided the following: “Cocaine, in any form, produces the same effects once it reaches the brain. It produces similar physiological and psychological effects, but the onset, intensity and duration of its effects are related directly to the method of use and how rapidly cocaine enters the brain. Cocaine inhalation became popular because it produces the quickest and highest peak blood levels in the brain without the risks attendant to IV use such as exposure to HIV from contaminated needles. Inhalation or smoking involves the inhalation of cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection.”
  2. In Iowa, prohibited acts involving more than 10 grams but less than 50 grams of crack carry the same penalty as offenses involving more than 100 but less than 500 grams of powder cocaine.
  3. It may assist in reducing the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans.

 

Guest Opinion

The following opinion is written by a Davenport resident who let Justice Reform Consortium know about a brutal incident in that city after JRC wrote about the Davenport Police Department’s efforts to get a law passed pertaining to eluding “an official law enforcement vehicle”.  The following is the opinion of the unnamed author and does not necessarily reflect the views of JRC.

As I’ve watched the details and thoughts and opinions about this incident pour out over the last week, I have to ask a few questions. 1. Where is the humanity? 2. What will it take to (and why do we have to) prove the inherent humanity of the black body? 3. Has the slave patrol ever ended?  If so, how have we normalized slave patrol tactics in police engagement of the minority community?

Now, I will have to preface this statement with, I have not watched the entire video, the first few minutes have emotionally wrecked me and I could not bring myself to finish watching it.  Unfortunately for the young man and his girlfriend, they could not press pause and turn it off, because they lived it.  This overwhelmingly traumatic incident will forever be embedded in their psyche and will influence not only their interaction with law enforcement, but their interactions with everyone else.  And for that, they have my deepest sympathies and I will be praying for them.

Unfortunately, I’ve already heard people who will never be subjected to racialized profiling and anti-black police violence stand up and say that the police did everything correctly, and that it was this man’s own fault that his jaw was broken in three places and that he will now have to undergo reconstructive surgery of his face.  And, the fact that the police released this “raw” video leads me to believe that they share a similar perspective as these people.

The problem with this mentality is this, there is a thought that in order to be treated as though you are a human being, deserving the respect that is due to your fellow man, you have to be a perfect human being.  By perfect I mean, you have to be college educated, wealthy, no criminal record and meek and mild mannered.  Unfortunately, everyone does not fit into these neat little boxes that society has identified as acceptable and because of this, we have allowed ourselves to accept that the failure to fit in these boxes means that you are “less than” and by being “less than” you are not entitled to the treatment that is bestowed upon those who fit within these criteria.  More importantly, the U.S. constitution does not require that basic human rights be respected by the government, it is usually only afforded if a person meet such superficial criteria discussed above. But, where is our humanity?  Why don’t we challenge the mistreatment of our fellow man?  The beauty of mankind is that we are all different.  And despite our differences we are supposed to love one another, but that is not what I see.  What I see is willful ignorance, implicit and explicit bias and a lack of empathy.  Because for some reason, some people think that because someone has a criminal record (at another time we can discuss the structural racism that has recreated slavery within the criminal justice system through strategic and intentional segregation in the American society, effectively corralling certain people in certain areas to more effectively target them for strategic disenfranchisement and dehumanization) they are not entitled to equal treatment and it is okay to view them with suspicion and interact with them in a manner that would be wholly unacceptable to members of the majority.

It is also important to note that even when certain members of our society are “ideal citizens” this has not and will not protect them from the racially biased views and interactions that leads to violent engagements with the police or even deaths of those civilians.

But do we ever stop to ask why?  Again, I ask where is our humanity?  Where is the caring and kindness for your fellow man?  Why do you excuse bad behavior by the majority towards the minority? I have two theories, the first is that too many of you are comfortable in the silence and know deep, deep down these things will almost certainly never happen to you or your families. My second theory (which is actually supported by empirical evidence) is that some of you default to your own implicit biases when you see stories like this. Because many of you have grown up in a world where the police have been helpful, and kind and supportive to your safety and the safety of people that look like you. How nice that must be, and I mean that honestly. I look forward to the day I am afforded the privilege to view the police as a source for human aid, and not a source of raw fear and terror. Perhaps it’s also because you too fear “those people”, therefore, it is totally acceptable that they are dehumanized for the sake of the majority’s comfort.  And do you ever stop to think about how constant micro and macro aggressions impact the psyche of these impacted groups?  Literally every segment of American society has been designed to exclude them, except prison, but they are expected to gracefully navigate this system and excel.

Do we ever stop to consider how if you devoted half of the effort that you exert to defend the actions of those who are in the wrong to dismantling structural oppression in American society how much further we could have advanced our society? How much you yourself would benefit from strengthened human rights?  Because stopping injustice is not done in a vacuum, it takes the community, coming together and demanding that we treat one another the way that we would like to be treated to stop the injustice that we are witnessing.

Now, to my next question, did the slave patrol ever end? (Do you know the history of that?)  Because I’m thinking that if the slave patrol has truly ended, we as a society should take issue with the police summarily stopping someone and questioning them essentially about why they are outside. People are allowed to be outside, you do not have to explain why you’re outside.   The police are not entitled to know what this young lady was doing out at night, they are not entitled to know her cousin’s name, they are not entitled to know where her cousin lives, they are not entitled to know where they are on their way to. It is none of their damn business what these two were out doing, that’s the beauty of living in a free society, you can come and go as you please. And exercising your right to do so, should not subject you to scrutiny. Not wanting to answer questions that they have no right ask, should not result in you laying in a hospital bed. Further, the fact that someone can say that this seems like a perfectly acceptable encounter, means that they have accepted that these two people are somehow lesser beings who are not entitled to their constitutional rights, because I don’t know how blowing a stop sign gives the officer cause to investigate the passenger, is there a belief that he was somehow operating the vehicle from the passenger’s seat?   Anyone who is willing to stand and say that this young man has caused his own injury is basically saying that he’s not entitled to humanity, they are saying that he has no rights, they are saying that the slave patrol has never ended, they are saying that he has no right to his person. They are giving an excuse for people who are in a position of authority and power, to abuse that authority and power and to mistreat people.  Effectively, what they are doing is giving away someone else’s rights, while maintaining their own, because I can surely bet that if they were in this person’s position they would be indignant, they’d be outraged, and they would be vocal about it.  Just as vocal as they were about this being this young man’s fault.  And I think that the saddest part of it is that they don’t recognize their own privilege to be able to step out and comment on a problem that will never hit home for them because it will never be them.

For those people, I say this.  You will never understand the fear that is instilled in the minority community at the hands of the police. The people whose salary we are helping to pay.  You will never have the fear of believing that every time you leave the house you could be killed by the very people who are supposed to serve and protect you. Because that will never be your truth or your burden I will kindly ask that you sit down and shut up, because you are not helping anyone, you are making matters worse for a lot of people. You are adding voice and support to a system that literally causes the deaths of people on an arbitrary and ignorant basis. You are condoning injustice in the name of the equality, you are condoning a lack of humanity, you are condoning the furtherance of the slave patrol, you are a part of the problem and you should see yourself as such.

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In the matter of the article above, the United States Supreme Court has Relisted* Lewis v. Vasquez ,16-805, for its March 31, 2017 conference.  We will not know until this week if the Court will accept the case for further review.  Below are the issues in Lewis v. Vaquez:

Issues: (1) Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in a divided 2-1 decision, incorrectly narrowed qualified immunity and failed to faithfully apply the Supreme Court’s precedents when it held that officers clearly lacked reasonable suspicion for the brief detention of a driver after a valid traffic stop until a drug detection dog arrived and alerted to the driver’s car; and (2) whether the 10th Circuit erred by doing precisely what the Supreme Court instructed lower courts not to do in United States v. Arvizu, which was to use a divide-and-conquer approach to reasonable suspicion and proceed to dismiss individual factors as innocuous in isolation rather than consider all factors collectively, i.e., the totality of the circumstances.

* When a case is “relisted,” that means that it is set for reconsideration at the Justices’ next Conference.  Unlike a hold, this will show up on the case’s electronic docket.  A relist can mean several things, including the fairly straightforward prospect that one or more Justices wants to take a closer look at the case; that one or more Justices is trying to pick up enough votes to grant review (four are needed); that the Justices are writing a summary reversal (that is, a decision that the lower court opinion was so wrong that the Court can decide the case on the merits without briefing or oral argument); or that one or more Justices are writing a dissent from the decision to deny review.  http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/06/frequently-asked-questions-orders/

Selected links:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/for-whites-across-america-deaths-of-despair-are-rising/ar-BByDYIj?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=mailsignout For whites across America, deaths of despair are rising www.msn.com  Alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide are driving up mortality rates for less-educated whites.  Aimee Picchi.  CBS News. March 24, 2017.

Please consider a generous contribution to help fund the activities of Justice Reform Consortium

I want to help Justice Reform Consortium with its goal of working toward restorative justice.

Here is my contribution of $________________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

Jean Basinger

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________

City: ____________________________State__________Zip_______________

 

□ I would like to be recognized for my contribution in the JRC Newsletter.

□ I think I’ll remain anonymous. Thank you. [Default]

 

February 26, 2017 Newsletter of JRC

Vol. 8 #4 February 26, 2017

The Silence Was Deafening

 Most drivers get that sick feeling in the pit of their stomach when flashing red lights appear in the rearview mirror.

“Was I speeding?”

“Is one of my lights out?”

“Did I blow a stop sign?”

But the fear is moderate, anticipating the possibility of a citation and fine, hoping for a warning ticket.

A select group of drivers experience gut-wrenching fear when seeing those same flashing lights, for the same possible moving violations.  But the fear is not about getting a ticket and how to pay for it.  No, the questions they have racing through their mind as the adrenaline begins to rise include:

“Will I survive?”

“Will I see my family again?”

Sadly, these are the same thoughts and fears that many peace officers experience when specific drivers, prejudged to be a threat based on physical appearance, are pulled over for what should be a simple, routine traffic stop. These aren’t baseless fears for either group, there have been deaths.

This shouldn’t be happening, but it is happening around the country and ignoring it or hoping it will somehow magically go away isn’t realistic and it’s extremely dangerous.

This is why warning flags are flying over the proposed distracted driving legislation that is on the move this session.  We have historically registered against previous efforts.  Our concern is the unforeseen consequences of the bill’s enactment with the increase in pretextual stops.  (A pretextual traffic stop involves a police officer stopping a driver for a traffic violation, minor or otherwise, to allow the officer to then investigate a separate and unrelated, suspected criminal offense.)  Our anxiety has only increased by the disturbing behavior that occurred during the two subcommittees last week – silence.

Senate Study Bill 1079 passed out of subcommittee on February 21, 2017 with subcommittee members, Senator Michael Breitbach (R-Strawberry Point), chair, Senator Tod Bowman (D-Maquoketa) and Senator Waylon Brown (R-St. Ansgar).  Although this was an Iowa Department of Public Safety bill, the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association lobbyist was sitting at the table with the subcommittee members ready to explain the proposed bill.  Lobbyists representing corporate interests had either declared in opposition to the bill or declared undecided, but brought concerns to the meeting requesting amendments.  Justice Reform Consortium declared as undecided because we recognize that distracted driving has become a public safety issue, but still we fear the consequence of racial profiling and pretextual stops.  The ACLU shares the same concern based on a study that they have conducted.

Betty Andrews, President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP presented an amendment to offer a solution, requiring data collection by officers when making traffic stops.  There were no questions from subcommittee members or anyone else in the room.  Senator Bowman requested an amendment to include Global Positioning System (GPS) usage as a reason to stop and cite, since he feared this was also dangerously distracting to drivers.

In other action, House Study Bill 139 passed out of subcommittee on February 23, 2017 with subcommittee members, Representative Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake), chair, Representative Robert Bacon (R-Slater), and Rep. John Forbes (D-Urbandale).  The Sheriffs and Deputies sat at the table during this presentation and stated how they had reached out to the corporate lobbyists and had amendments to address their concerns raised during the Senate subcommittee (SSB 1079) meeting.  These lobbyists now will change their declarations supporting the bill, since their concerns were respected.  But sheriffs and deputies hadn’t reached out to the lobbies concerned about the health and well-being of Iowans.  Russ Lovell, representing the NAACP, gave an eloquent and heartfelt presentation on the need for the proposed amendment that would gather data during these proposed traffic stops.  Once again there were no questions or comments after his presentation.

The saddest part of this situation is that minorities and law enforcement share the same thoughts, the same fears, and should be working together to ease the strained racial relationship.  We need more than silence.

 JRC Opposes Sentencing Reform?

You would think that a bill promising true sentencing would be supported by Justice Reform Consortium.  But that’s not what we did.  Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) brought a bill before the Iowa House, House File 377 (by Rep. Zach Nunn (R) of Bondurant).  We opposed it.

The first section of the bill reduced the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine from the current 1:10 ratio down to a 1:2 ratio.  We opposed the bill because we object to the sentencing scheme that fails to recognize that these two substances are pharmacologically identical.

Iowa was one of a few states that adopted the federal ratio of 100:1 back in the last century.  It wasn’t until 2003 that Iowa legislators reduced the ratio from 100:1 to 10:1.  It is possible that the outlandish ratio is one of the causes of Iowa’s disproportionate imprisonment of African-Americans.  Although it is believed that the percentage of drug users across ethnic and cultural lines is basically equal, African-Americans and Latinos are incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts, especially in Iowa.

So, to begin, a crack dealer needs cocaine.  The dealer heats the cocaine with baking soda and recovers the chemical reaction that rises to the top.  That solid piece of what remains is the crack. “According to the DEA and Sentencing Commission, one gram of cocaine powder converts/reduces to 0.89 gram cocaine base.”  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-24648.htm.  In other words, beginning with 100 grams of cocaine powder (about the weight of a half roll of quarters, the dealer can produce approximately 89 grams of crack (take a couple of quarters out of that ½ roll).  Before the chemical transformation, the penalty for possessing those 100 grams of cocaine in Iowa would be a class “C” felony, ten years in prison.  After the transformation, the possession of the 89 grams of crack in Iowa is a Super class “B” felony, 50 years in prison.  “This disparity means that a major supplier of powder cocaine may receive a shorter sentence than a low-level dealer who buys powder from the supplier but then converts it to crack.”  Kimbrough v. US, 128 S.Ct. 558, 566 (2007).

The disparity in sentencing is realized only with crack/powder cocaine.  There has never been a disparity between methamphetamine and crystal ice.  “Crystalline methamphetamine (ice) is a highly-purified form of methamphetamine with a crystal-like appearance. The only difference between ice and the other methamphetamines, speed and base, is that ice undergoes additional refinement to remove impurities.”  http://druginfo.sl.nsw.gov.au/drugs/a-to-z-of-drugs/ice-speed-other-methamphetamines We’re not seeking a sentencing structure between meth and ice, only pointing out the inane rationale.

Crack cocaine and powder cocaine is the same thing.  JRC believes that the ratio in sentencing thresholds should be the logical 1:1. The Iowa County Attorneys Association suggested the ratio be 5:1.  There is no logical or scientific explanation for their suggestion.  It’s almost as if they sought insight from the Magic Crystal Ball (no pun intended), or “pick a card, any card” mentality, but like most suggestions on sentencing, the ICAA pulled the numbers from “thin air”.

Our initial opposition to the bill was more symbolic based upon the crack/powder section of the bill.  We had a minor concern with an internal phrase.  However, an amendment is being proposed to the bill that was originally HF 358 (by Zach Nunn -R, Bondurant), a bill that would, in Nunn’s words, “give more protection to peace officers”.  We mentioned that we would now be locked into our opposition because of the amendment. The bill (amendment) provides that a person who ‘attempts’ to murder a peace officer must serve 100% of the sentence, shall be denied parole, work release or any other early release.  JRC believes that the release of an offender without parole or other supervised release is dangerous to society.  Furthermore, it is difficult to comprehend any law actually “protecting” anyone.  Irrational people do not react rationally to reactionary law.

Please consider a generous contribution to help fund the activities of Justice Reform Consortium.

I want to help Justice Reform Consortium with its goal of working toward restorative justice.

Here is my contribution of $________________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

Jean Basinger

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address:  ________________________________________________________

City:  ____________________________State__________Zip_______________

 

□ I would like to be recognized for my contribution in the JRC Newsletter.

□ I think I’ll remain anonymous.  Thank you. [Default]

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Two bills proposing to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa have been introduced in the Iowa Senate

Please join us!

 IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

WILL MEET ON February 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm at

Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

3700 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

 

Dues are a minimum of $15 per year.  Checks may be made out to IADP and sent to:

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

Those who have not attended a meeting are encouraged to join.  We ask that you include an email address with the submission of your dues.

A tax-deductible gift may be made to the “IADP Fund”, but a contribution to the “Fund” will not make you a member.  Contributions to the IADP Fund” may be sent to the same P.O. Box in Des Moines.

 

 

 

January 29, 2017 Newsletter

Vol. 8 #2 January 29, 2017

2017 Legislature

It seems as though every new session of the Iowa Legislature brings a bill that will require Iowa Prison Industries to compete with Iowa companies for furniture.  This year is no different.

House Study Bill 49 would amend Iowa Code Section 904.808 to provide that the director of the Department of Administrative Services, rather than the director of the Department of Corrections (current practice) would have the authority to release a state agency from making a purchase from Iowa Prison Industries and allow it to purchase furniture and other items from a private vendor.

“Iowa Prison Industries (IPI) provides work training to the men and women incarcerated at Iowa’s state prisons. More than 90% of offenders in state prison are scheduled to be released, and our job is to teach them how to get and keep a job once they get out. IPI programs help keep our communities safer because offenders with good job skills are less likely to commit new crimes once they are released. Ex-offenders with good job skills are also an important resource for Iowa employers, contributing to the state’s economic development. IPI is 100% self-funding and receives no government appropriations. IPI’s products and services may be purchased only by governmental agencies, school districts, non-profit groups and employees of these organizations.”

Justice Reform Consortium opposes HSB 49 and all other bills that arise each session to diminish the work of IPI.  “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”  Proverbs 16:27-29.  We believe that offenders in the many Iowa correctional facilities will be better prepared for release and will stay out of trouble when presented with the opportunity to learn a skill through IPI.

 Valentine’s Day at the Court

On Tuesday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day), the Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two separate cases that should be of interest to Justice Reform Consortium readers.  At 9:00 am, the Court will hear arguments in Jacob Lee Schmidt v. State of Iowa.  Immediately following, the Court will hear oral arguments in State of Iowa v. Kelvin Plain, Sr.

The question in Schmidt v. Iowa is whether the Iowa Court of Appeals “erred in holding newly discovered exculpatory evidence (in this case the victim’s recantation) cannot be the basis for postconviction relief when an applicant claiming actual innocence was convicted following a guilty plea rather than a trial.”

The interesting timing of this case coincides with a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case, in which the nation’s High Court has relisted Class v. United States, 16-424  for oral arguments at a future date.  The question in Class is “whether a guilty plea inherently waives a defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction.”

Class presents the question whether a defendant’s unconditional guilty plea waives his right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction. After U.S. Capitol Police observed petitioner Rodney Class parked illegally outside the U.S. Botanic Garden, Class made a decision almost as fraught with legal consequence as violating parking regulations on the grounds of the Capitol: He admitted having weapons in his car. Police then searched the car and found 256 rounds of ammunition and three handguns (apparently, he brought extras, in case the first two were stolen). Class challenged his prosecution as violating the Second Amendment, but later entered an unconditional guilty plea to unlawfully carrying or heavily readily accessible a firearm on capitol grounds, in violation of Washington, D.C., law. Class renewed on appeal his claim that his prosecution violated his Second Amendment rights, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, in an unpublished opinion, that unconditionally entering a guilty plea waives the defendant’s claims of error on appeal, including constitutional claims. Class seeks to revisit that determination on appeal, arguing that some courts allow review of constitutional claims notwithstanding an unconditional guilty plea.

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/01/relist-watch-97/

Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs have been filed by the Exoneration Project, The Innocence Network and the Innocence Project of Iowa.

In State v. Plain, Plain alleges several assignments of error, including: 1) denial of his sixth amendment right to a jury panel that represents a fair cross-section of the community; 2) introduction of inadmissible hearsay evidence; 3) denial of his constitutional right to a fair trial due to prosecutor’s repeated use of the term “victim”; 4) trial court abuse of discretion in denying his motion for mistrial; and 5) trial court error in denying his request for a racial bias jury instruction.

Oral arguments are open to the public.  You may also view those oral arguments that occur within the Judicial Building via live streaming and afterwards on YouTube

Oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court can be viewed live on the Iowa Courts YouTube channel.

Live streaming is only available during oral arguments. Archived oral arguments from the current adjudicative term are also on the Iowa Courts YouTube channel. A calendar of arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court is posted at: http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Oral_Argument_Schedule/

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UPCOMING EVENTS

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

WILL MEET ON February 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm at

Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

3700 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

Dues are a minimum of $15 per year.  Checks may be made out to IADP and sent to:

 

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

Those who have not attended a meeting are encouraged to join.  We ask that you include an email address with the submission of your dues.

A tax-deductible gift may be made to the “IADP Fund”, but a contribution to the “Fund” will not make you a member.  Contributions to the IADP Fund” may be sent to the same P.O. Box in Des Moines.

 

 

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Legislative Advocacy Day for the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church will be held at Wesley United Methodist Church on Tuesday, February 7.

 

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The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., February 21st at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

 

In February, we welcome members of the Iowa United Methodist Legislative Advocacy Team to share with us what’s happening at the 2017 Legislative session.

 

MISSION:  To bring together and inform individuals and groups concerned about women in the Iowa correctional system and to act on their behalf.

 

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

 

Bring your lunch.  The place and time are consistent throughout the year.  The meetings are always held on the third Tuesday of the month, and always held from noon to 1:00 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church located at 800 East 12th Street in Des Moines.  The location is a block west of East High School.  Please contact Vi for more information.

 

 

 

Voices to be Heard is a support group for families and children of an incarcerated loved one. The group gathers to support and comfort those who know too well the grief that comes to those left behind when someone they love is incarcerated. The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Wesley United Methodist Church (800 East 12th St. in Des Moines) from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.  Potluck begins at 5:30 p.m. meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.  The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes.  It is a good idea to contact Alaire Saunders ahead of time because a head count is preferred.  Contact Alaire at 515/954-0039 for more information.

 

Voices to be Heard has formed also in Cedar Rapids.  Please contact:  Voices to be Heard, Voices.Heard@yahoo.com. Sue Hutchins, 252 S. 22nd St., Marion, IA 52302.

 

 

IOWA JUSTICE ACTION NETWORK

LOBBY DAY

 

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2017

 

9:00 AM UNTIL 1:00 PM

 

9:00 AM       Speaker

Rev. Lee Schott, Women at the Well Ministry, Mitchellville Women’s Facility

 

Rev. Schott will speak on her work with incarcerated women and also on mental health issues related to incarceration.

 

10:00 AM     Briefing on conversations with state legislators

 

10:30 AM     Proceed to State Capitol to speak with legislators

 

Issue priorities:  mental health, sentencing reform, and enhancing community based alternatives to incarceration.

 

11:30 AM     Lunch in Room 116 of the State Capitol (cost – $11.)

 

1:00 PM        Lobby Day ends

 

To register for Lobby Day, please email allen.hays@uni.edu.  Let us know if you will be eating lunch and if you need a vegetarian option. 

 

PLEASE JOIN US TO MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD!

 

 

 

 

Justice Reform Consortium member organizations: ACLU of Iowa; American Friends Service Committee; Beacon of Life; Compassion, Peace, and Justice Taskforce, Des Moines Presbytery; Des Moines Chapter of WILPF; Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners; Iowa Annual Conference, UMC; Iowa CURE; Iowa Coalition 4 Juvenile Justice; Iowa Justice Action Network; Iowa-Nebraska Chapter of the NAACP; Iowa NOW and Des Moines NOW; Methodist Federation for Social Action; National Association of Social Workers; Plymouth Congregational Church, Board of Christian Social Action; Trinity United Methodist Church; Urban Dreams; and Voices to be Heard – Des Moines & Cedar Rapids.

This newsletter published by: Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, Public Policy Advocates http://iowappa.com/

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