First JRC Newsletter of 2017

Vol. 8 #1 January 8, 2017

2017 Legislature

Justice Reform Consortium identified its priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session before the November election.  It’s always been this way.  The election has rarely made a difference on our priorities, and we didn’t see this year as anything different.  Reviewing our priorities and watch list, we continue to see the glass as half-full, just as it has been in the past.

Below is a categorized list of issues that JRC intends to face during the 2017 session of the Eighty-Seventh Iowa General Assembly.  Some may be pursued by legislators in majority; others will fall by the wayside or get caught up in the Legislature’s funnel process.  Nonetheless, JRC is preparing for all issues listed below.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

MINORITY IMPACTS

Transit Assault:  Enhancing the criminal penalty for an assault on an operator of a motor vehicle providing transit services as part of a public transit system, and providing penalties.  A Minority Impact Statement (within a Fiscal Note from a previous year) claims:

The minority impact cannot be estimated but may be significant. Approximately 25.4% of offenders convicted under this Bill may be minorities. This Bill shifts a percentage of serious misdemeanor convictions to aggravated misdemeanor convictions, and a percentage of aggravated misdemeanor convictions to Class D forcible felony convictions. Enhanced penalties will result in an increased number of minority offenders under current law.

JRC OPPOSED this bill in the past, and has strongly opposed the concept for many years.  We anticipate the bill will be introduced again this year.  We will continue to oppose any efforts to make this concept law (See Occupational Assault below under ENHANCED PENALTIES).

Risk Assessments; A trend in sentencing is to look at an offender’s past to determine if the offender is a risk to reoffend.  The preferred sentencing structure is to sentence the defendant based upon the crime for which the defendant committed, not based upon what a person may or may not do at some future date.  JRC OPPOSED in the past.  Requires that a validated risk assessment be part of a presentence investigative report.  JRC believes that risk assessments are biased against people of color, and an in-depth article with factual data proves it:  https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

We believe several government entities will try to expand the use of risk assessments during the 2017 session.

ENHANCED PENALTIES

Interlock devices: “Current law allows a first-time operating-while-intoxicated (OWI) offender to operate a motor vehicle with a temporary restricted driver’s license, but without an ignition interlock device, where, during the offense, the offender’s alcohol concentration was .10 or below and the offender did not cause an accident. An effort by Rep. Sandy Salmon eliminates this provision. A bill in the past provides “that a first-time OWI offender with a temporary restricted driver’s license shall install an ignition interlock device in the offender’s vehicle, whether the offender’s driver’s license revocation was the result of sentencing, deferred judgment, or administrative revocation, and regardless of the offender’s alcohol concentration at the time of the offense.”  Explanation of past bill.

The requirement of installing an ignition interlock device is expensive and restrictive.  In that way, it is considered by JRC to be a penalty enhancement.  JRC opposes penalty enhancements when there is a lack of empirical evidence that proves the increase in a penalty is warranted.  In this matter, the impetus for the bill was based on emotion.  During the previous General Assembly, a subcommittee meeting was held on the bill where a legislator showed a picture of a child who was killed by an impaired driver.  There were not enough subcommittee members willing to sign the bill for it to move out of subcommittee and be placed before the House Judicial Committee for its consideration.

JRC OPPOSED this bill in the past, and Rep. Salmon has written in her newsletter that she will introduce it again this year.

Death Penalty:  Creating the penalty of death for the commission of the multiple offense of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, and sexual abuse against the same minor, providing a penalty.  This bill is reinstating the death penalty in Iowa.  JRC has always OPPOSED.  We expect a Death Penalty bill to be introduced in response to police killings throughout the country.

Occupational Assault:  Each year, a bill is introduced to enhance the penalty for assault against a particular occupation.  For instance, the Transit Assault mentioned earlier.  Many of these bills are “special interest” constituent bills relating to sports officials, bus drivers, etc.  JRC has always OPPOSED these “Animal Farm” bills.

First, these types of bills are always afflicted with the accompanying words “protected”, “protections”, or “protects”.  This bill and others like it protect no one.  If an athlete or spectator is going to assault the official, the act will be committed regardless of the law.  This assumption that a law will protect a person against an assault is pure conjecture.

In the past 20 years, the list of occupations that are referenced in Section 708.3A has grown exponentially.  Before another occupation is added to the list of those already inducted into the piecemealed section, a study needs to be completed to discover the effect of those inclusions.  How many parole board employees and officials have been assaulted since parole board member or employee was added?  And how may parole board employees or officials were assaulted in the same amount of time before the position was added to the list of so-called protected occupations?  Has the inclusion of employees of the “Department of Revenue” and “Department of Human Services” decreased the assaults upon these employees?  Researching these questions, and similar inquiries will disclose the effectiveness of these additions, and will provide insight into whether the entire section should be maintained, enhanced, or discontinued.

How many people charged with violations of Section 708.3A, the predecessor to proposed Section 708.2D, have actually been convicted of the crime; and how many have pled down to simple assault?  There are too many questions that need answered before advancing this legislation.

Second, this legislation epitomizes the vanishing promise of equality related to us in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Equality is a relationship between man and man. . .. In an equal society, there is no division of classes, wealth or power. This was the predominant goal of the Russian Revolution as well as the animal revolution in the story Animal Farms (sic). The thought of having an equal society is admirable, though it’s only a fantasy. In the story Animal Farms (sic), 7 commandments were established soon after the fleeing of Mr. Jones, with the 7th- all animals are equal, being the most important. Later on, bit by bit, the 7 commandments were soon deformed, and the equality which the commandments promised and protected perished.

http://apeliterature.weebly.com/animal-farm—george-orwell-equality.html

Adding certain occupations to a Code section that has yet to prove anything beyond Orwell’s prediction that everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others, will lead to other members of certain other occupations seeking the same fantasy – this law will protect them.  Eventually, most occupations will be included in this law, and it will become a dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.  The result of years and years of moving other occupations into this Code section will have a name.  It will be called totalitarian control.

Blue Lives Matter:  JRC believes that everything in this nationwide measure is currently in Iowa Code.  We do expect this issue to be introduced and to move through the process.  We will look at the legislation closely to see if it is repetitious or necessary.

So-called “Emmalee’s Law” – modifying hit-and-run laws.  This anticipated legislation is the result of an incident that happened in Ames.  A student was struck by a bus and the driver did not come forward with information, immediately.  JRC will likely OPPOSE.

SENTENCING REFORM

Mandatory Minimums – Justice Reform Consortium has always OPPOSED the creation and expansion of more mandatory minimum sentences.  The elimination or reduction of mandatory minimum statutes must be taken seriously.  Often, reducing the sentence of one crime leads to the expansion or creation of a new law.  JRC will monitor carefully.

CRIME/PUNISHMENT

CO/Inmate Relationships:  Bills relating to the criminal elements and penalties for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED, and actually requested this bill last year.  This legislation was a priority issue for JRC.  It is one of those times the JRC supports the enhancement of a criminal penalty.  This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed. 

 It may be difficult to think of a prisoner as a victim, but there is no such thing as consensual sex in a correctional setting.

It is important to note that consent is never a legal defense for corrections staff who engage in sexual acts with inmates. According to federal law, all sexual relations between staff and inmates are considered abuse. Even if a sexual act would have been considered consensual if it occurred outside of a prison, by statute it is criminal sexual abuse when it occurs inside a prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 2243 (c).

https://oig.justice.gov/special/0504/

Iowa’s law prohibiting sex between a person in a position of authority and a person who is incarcerated or on parole or probation is weak.

Sexual misconduct by prison and jail employees, vendors, volunteers, etc. “compromises facility security and creates work environments that are negative for both staff and inmates.  Allegations are disquieting and divisive for employees and the public.”  Policy Development Guide for Sheriffs and Jail Administrators.  August, 2002.   https://s3.amazonaws.com/static.nicic.gov/Library/017925.pdf

Section 709.16 addresses prohibition and the criminal penalty of sexual misconduct with an offender.  In Iowa, that penalty is an aggravated misdemeanor.  In most other states, this penalty is a felony[1].  Increasing the penalty to a class “D” felony will align Iowa with the majority of states and should prove to be an effective deterrent[2].

The bill also enhances the penalty from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class “D” felony in a juvenile placement facility.

The punishment should fit the crime, and in this case, enhancing the penalty is appropriate.

DUE PROCESS

Home Occupancy:  Restricting authority of cities to regulate and restrict the occupancy of residential rental property.  Currently, several cities in Iowa have ordinances that restrict how many unrelated people can live in a one-family dwelling. This bill would prohibit such ordinances. JRC SUPPORTS this legislation because many people released from prison need a safe place to live. Ordinances that prohibit habitation based upon kinship are outdated and discriminatory. After all, why should the [local] government know “who” lives in your home and how they are or are not related to each other?  JRC has knowledge of this bill being introduced again, most likely with different language

Tax Collecting: An Act relating to the vehicle registration duties of county treasurers.  JRC OPPOSED this legislation over the past 2-3 years.  This bill allows county treasurers to collect a fee of $5 when collecting delinquent parking fines for a city or county.  The delinquent fines must be paid before issuing a vehicle registration.  This is part of the treasurers’ job and should not be an added tax for citizens.  Some counties are refusing to collect if they do not receive the $5 fee assessed to violators.

Interpreters and Translators:  An Act relating to interpreters for persons who are limited English proficient, deaf, deaf-blind, or hard-of-hearing in certain legal proceedings and court-ordered programs.  Currently, Iowa is not in compliance with federal law.  JRC SUPPORTED every year the courts have tried to move this.  We are not aware of the courts trying again, but if they do, we will be their ally.

24/7 Monitoring:  Certain counties in Iowa want a bill for an act providing for the establishment of county chemical substance abuse monitoring pilot programs and modifying temporary restricted license eligibility requirements for operating-while-intoxicated offenders.  This is known as the 24/7 monitoring program.  JRC has OPPOSED this legislation.  The Des Moines Register is lobbying the issue through articles and editorials.  JRC has serious concerns about the program and its selective use.

Risk Assessments:  An Act relating to domestic abuse and other offenses involving a domestic relationship, and providing penalties.  JRC OPPOSED this legislation in 2016.  The penalty relies heavily upon risk assessments in sentencing.  JRC believes that risk assessment usage in the sentencing process contains grave constitutional violations.

EQUALITY

Racial Profiling:  Legislation relating to law enforcement profiling by standardizing the collection and centralizing the compilation and reporting of officer stop and complaint data, providing for officer training, creating a community policing advisory board, providing for penalties and remedies, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED the bill requested by the NAACP, which was introduced in 2016.  We will support future attempts by the NAACP to advance this legislation.

Jury Lists:  Legislation requiring the master list for juror service to be updated using an electronic data processing system annually and eliminating jury commissions.  This was an issue that was recommended by the Governor’s Working Group on Justice Policy Reform.  JRC SUPPORTED the bill introduced in 2016.

Distracted Driving:  Changing the criteria for pulling someone over for texting/emailing while driving from the current secondary offense to one of making it a primary offense.  Our fear upon enactment is the possibility of it being a pretextual stop in the process of racial profiling.

WAR ON DRUGS

 Marijuana Possession:  Possession of marijuana is an issue that JRC has SUPPORTED in the past.  However, the specifics of a particular law bill may dictate the position as to whether JRC supports, opposes, or remains neutral.

Synthetic Drugs:  Bills relating to controlled substances, particularly those enhancing the penalties for imitation controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, and providing penalties.  The Iowa Pharmacy Board has pre-filed a bill.

First of all, the bill extended the time limit of designating a temporary controlled substance from the end of one general assembly to 2 years.  A two-year designation as temporary is far too long.

Second, JRC OPPOSES the bill based upon statements within a past Fiscal Note:

Synthetic Drugs The correctional impact is expected to be minimal due to the low number of convictions under current law.  Enhancing the penalties will increase the incarceration rate and lengthen the term of supervision, both in the state prison system and Community-Based Corrections (CBC).  Offenders convicted under the provisions of this bill will remain under supervision longer than current law.

Minority Impact: To the extent convictions occur under the provisions of the bill, there will be a minority impact, specifically to Blacks.  Blacks comprise approximately 3.4% of the Iowa population but represent approximately 27.3% of the convictions impacted under this bill.

The fiscal note points out (italicized emphasis above) that there will be very few convictions.  Yet, those convicted will serve enhanced penalties.  JRC opposes the enhancement of penalties where research is lacking as to whether the enhancement will serve a viable purpose.  It also points out that minorities will be heavily impacted by the provisions of this bill.

JRC may have to oppose these bills based upon language which was included in the past: adding vague language about risk assessments.

RE-ENTRY

Fair Chance Law:  Bills prohibiting employers and employment agencies from seeking the criminal record or criminal history from applicants for employment under certain circumstances, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED this legislation in 2016, most popularly known as the “Ban-The-Box Bill”, but more respectfully known as “The Fair Chance Act”.

 

Felon Voting Rights Video

Below is a video of a voting rights discussion sent in by Mike Cervantes of Inside OUT Reentry Program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljf1h-yxIws

News from the Department of Corrections

On Friday, January 6, the Iowa Board of Corrections approved two changes in wardens at Iowa prisons.  Patti Wachtendorf, who is currently the warden at Iowa Correctional Institute for Women at Mitchellville, will succeed Warden Nick Ludwick, who is retiring Jan. 31, at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Sheryl Dahm, who is currently the warden at the Clarinda Correctional Facility, will replace Wachtendorf as the warden at Mitchellville.  No one was named to replace Dahm in Clarinda, according to Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff, but Deputy Warden Stephen Weis will serve as acting warden until a new warden is named.

The Board also reviewed eight policy changes and will act on them at the next meeting.  Three of the policies are described to be confidential, the others are related to the administration of the department and work programs and work-related injuries.  Getting the Board to approve policy rather than having policy approved by the director was a huge accomplishment of JRC.

 

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UPCOMING EVENTS

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

WILL MEET ON January 24, 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 also encouraged to join.  We ask that you include an email address with the submission of their 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.

Organizations’ dues are $50 per year.

************************************************

The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., January 17th 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 Vi for more information.

[1] https://www.wcl.american.edu/endsilence/documents/50StateSurvey-SSMLAWS2013Update.pdf

 

[2] On March 25, 2011, Megan Elizabeth Cecil, 32, a former Department of Correctional Services residential officer, was sentenced to two years probation on two counts of sexual misconduct and required to register as a sex offender. She had been charged with having sex with a male prisoner at the Burlington Men’s Residential Facility four times in March 2010. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.50]. According to court records, former Dallas County jailer Kevin Paul Hines, 60, pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with an offender and was sentenced on June 10, 2011 to two years; he was also ordered to register as a sex offender and pay $1,599.02 in restitution. Hines had been arrested in 2009 for raping prisoner Tamera Poeschl three times in a temporary jail cell.

 

And several more examples.

 

Justice Reform Consortium Newsletter 12-8-16

Vol. 7 #13 December 8, 2016

Death Penalty In Iowa?

Two decades ago, Iowa faced the possibility of reinstating capital punishment. It didn’t happen. 1995 was the height of the pendelum. New York reinstated the death penalty the same year it was defeated in Iowa. A year previous, Kansas had adopted the crime of capital murder.

Since the Iowa Legislature defeated House File 2 in 1995, several states have abolished the antiquated penalty in favor of life without the possibility of parole – Iowa’s default since 1964. A few other states have an haitus on executions because of court orders or moratoriums in place by governors.

On Tuesday, November 29, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in a case, Moore v. Texas, in which the defendant Moore is facing the death penalty in Texas three and one-half decades after being sentenced to death. However, the matter of whether 35 years between sentencing and execution violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is not the argument the court will hear. You see, Moore is intelletually disabled – or is he? Texas says he is not.

Lawyers for inmate Bobby James Moore tell the justices that Moore failed first grade twice, but was still advanced to the next grade so that he wouldn’t be significantly older than the other students in his year. When he was 13, they add, he still “lacked basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, telling time, the standards of measure, and the principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition.” And, to make matters worse, Moore “also suffered a debilitating head injury during Texas’s schoolhouse integration battles”: He was “hit in the head with a chain and a brick as he tried to make his way to the bus.”

In 1980, when Moore was 20, he and two other men robbed a supermarket. One of the store’s employees was shot and killed during the robbery; Moore was convicted of the shooting and sentenced to death. Over 30 years later, Moore was again sentenced to death, but a state trial court determined, after a two-day hearing, that Moore is intellectually disabled and cannot be executed.

Posted in SCOTUSblog, November 22, 2016 – http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/11/argument-preview-court-returns-again-to-the-death-penalty-and-the-intellectually-disabled/#more-248775 Amy Howe Reporter and Independent Contractor

The legal question is whether “it violates the Eighth Amendment and this Court’s decisions in Hall v. Florida and Atkins v. Virginia to prohibit the use of current medical standards on intellectual disability, and require the use of outdated medical standards, in determining whether an individual may be executed.”

It should be embarrassing to all of us that Texas prosecutors believe that a man, who at the age of 13 could not tell the difference between seasons, has the mental capacity to understand the nature of his crimes, or the consequences therein.

Here’s the really strange part:

[T]he Texas Criminal Court of Appeals went with a fictional novel [Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck) over science and medicine to measure Bobby’s severe mental limitations. The justices heard a vast body of evidence demonstrating these limitations, which meet the widely accepted scientific standards for defining intellectual disability. Then they rejected it all according to seven wildly unscientific factors for measuring intellectual disability, drawn in large part from the fictional character Lennie Small. Bobby was no Lennie, they concluded, ruling that his disability wasn’t extreme enough to exempt him from the death penalty.

Salon Thursday, Apr 21, 2016.  Texas is using “Of Mice and Men” to justify executing this man. Seriously. Anna Arceneauxhttp://www.salon.com/2016/04/21/texas_is_using_of_mice_and_men_to_justify_executing_this_man_seriously/

During oral arguments on Tuesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor “read a lengthy list of examples that she regarded as demonstrating Moore’s intellectual disability, including eating from garbage cans. Although Moore would get sick after doing so, she pointed out, he would then turn around and do it again – indicating that he could not learn from his mistakes.”  Amy Howe, Argument analysis: Texas inmate seems likely to prevail in death-row disability challenge, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 29, 2016, 1:59 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/11/argument-analysis-texas-inmate-seems-likely-to-prevail-in-death-row-disability-challenge/

Some people in Iowa would like to see Iowa adopt the death penalty for certain heinous crimes committed in this state.  Recently, Governor Terry E. Branstad has said that the death penalty is “not a panacea” for murder.  He’s right.  Capital punishment is complex.  Because of its complexity, the integrity of a state’s criminal justice system is at stake.  Iowans already know better than to attempt the execution of a mentally disabled person.  Or, at least, we hope Iowans know.

Iowa cannot afford capital punishment.  Iowans cannot afford its expense; Iowans cannot afford its discriminatory practice; Iowans cannot afford to execute an innocent person; Iowans cannot afford to execute a mentally disabled person. Iowa cannot afford the death penalty!

Join Justice Reform Consortium and Iowans Against the Death Penalty on Monday evening, December 12, in keeping Iowa one of 19 states without a statute allowing the use of capital punishment.

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

WILL MEET ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2016 AT HOLY TRINITY CATHOLIC SCHOOL (2926 BEAVER AVE., DES MOINES) AT 6:30 PM.

People should use the east door of the school building and will be directed from there.

JRC Annual Meeting

On October 23, 2016, organizations that make up Justice Reform Consortium attended the annual meeting at Valley Methodist Church in West Des Moines. Deb Theeler and Gordy Allen were honored by JRC for their work, not only over the past year, but for the years and years of dedicated service to those who are incarcerated and re-entrying society. After acknowledging Deb and Gordy, attendees were treated to this year’s speaker, Gary Dickey, a Des Moines attorney who drafted Executive Order #42 when he was Governor Vilsack’s legal counsel.

YouTube videos of the events can be found at:

Deb Theeler video – Click here

Gody Allen video – Click here

Gary Dickey address, Part I – Click here

Gary Dickey address, Part II – Click here

News from the Iowa Legislative Service Agency – Fiscal Division

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET HEARING – DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

On November 22, 2016, Governor Terry Branstad held a budget hearing for the Department of Corrections (DOC). DOC Director Jerry Bartruff presented the Department’s FY 2018 and FY 2019 funding requests, stating that the Department’s budget will remain at status quo at an appropriation level of $385.1 million.

Director Bartruff stressed the importance of lowering the recidivism rate in controlling costs. Apprenticeship programs within the prisons help to reduce recidivism by giving inmates employable job skills upon their release. The DOC is also trying to use resources more efficiently, and the move of sex offenders from the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility to the Newton Correctional Facility is an example of that effort. Increasing medical and county confinement costs are two areas that were cited by Director Bartruff as concerns. A Lean project addressing county confinement costs was conducted, and changes in the processes for parole violation revocations are being enacted to decrease inefficiencies.

Governor Branstad inquired about the Iowa State Penitentiary (ISP) at Fort Madison. Director Bartruff stated that some of the problems they have experienced with the new facility were anticipated. The geothermal and ventilation issues are still being addressed, as are some operational issues. Critical incidents have decreased in the new facility, and the staff is accepting the direct supervision model. Discussions regarding how to utilize the old ISP facility are ongoing.

STAFF CONTACTS: Alice Wisner (515)281-6764 alice.wisner@legis.iowa.gov Laura Book (515)725-0509 laura.book@legis.iowa.gov

Selected links:

Mothers In Prison.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/opinion/sunday/mothers-in-prison.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share By NICHOLAS KRISTOF NOV. 25, 2016. New York Times.

Please consider a year-end 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

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.  The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes.

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.

The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., December 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 Vi for more information.

 

 

 

 

Justice Reform Consortium member organizations: ACLU of Iowa; American Friends Service Committee; Beacon of Life; Compassion, Peace, and Justice Taskforce, Des Moines Presbytery; Citizens for Undoing Racism-War on Drugs Task Force; Des Moines Chapter of WILPF; Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners; Iowa Annual Conference, UMC; Iowa CURE; Iowa Coalition 4 Juvenile Justice; 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.

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August Newsletter 8-23-16

JRC’s 2015-2016 Legislative Recap

The following report is a compilation of bills that Justice Reform Consortium worked on during Iowa’s Eighty-sixth General Assembly (2 years; the 2015 Session and the 2016 Session) in which there was a vote or significant discussion. It does not include bills in which the Justice Reform Consortium declared “undecided”. There are, however, a few bills included in this report that had no vote taken on the bill, but might be included because JRC lobbied several legislators on the matter (i.e. Racial Profiling, Death Penalty), or the issue was brought up and discussed in a subcommittee, even though it did not pass out of the subcommittee.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

 

Read more . . .

JRC June 2016 Newsletter

Vindication #1

At the end of May, the Iowa Supreme Court shot down a law that was so new it didn’t have the opportunity to be printed in the Iowa Code.  In State v. Sweet the Court ruled that sentencing a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole is categorically unconstitutional.

The law that was struck down was a controversial piece of legislation that passed both chambers and was signed into law by the governor in 2015.  The legislation allowed a court to sentence a juvenile defendant to life without the possibility of parole.  The Iowa County Attorneys Association, the Iowa Bar Association, and the Iowa Attorney General were among those who suggested the legislation would be constitutional, and they pushed for its passage.  The floor manager in the Senate, Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), proclaimed during debate:  “I think this bill is constitutional.”  Justice Reform Consortium (JRC) was one of those groups that pled with legislators to take a different approach.

During a subcommittee meeting last year, Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director, and Gordy Allen, former ACLU General Counsel, Deputy Attorney General, and Drake Law Professor, both of whom were representing the coalition in which JRC was involved, were asked by the subcommittee chair, Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), to develop an amendment that would survive a constitutional challenge.  Over a matter of a couple of days, the two drafted language that would have done just that.  Their efforts were ignored and an alternative amendment, written by a former prosecutor with the Attorney General’s office – Elisabeth Reynoldson – and pushed by the Iowa Bar Association, was considered in lieu thereof.

In a statement from the ACLU of Iowa, dated March 15, 2015, Bettis wrote:

We do not support even the remote and rare possibility of the imposition of a life sentence without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders, and believe that the Courts will rule that way as well in the future under the existing analysis, because children are both less culpable and more capable of rehabilitation than adults. A truly forward thinking bill that incorporates the reasoning of the Courts in the governing cases [U.S. Supreme Court cases Miller v. Alabama, Graham v. Florida and Iowa Supreme Court cases, State v. Ragland, State v. Pearson, State v. Null, and State v. Lyle] would provide a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate rehabilitation and release for all juvenile offenders, meaning life with the possibility of parole would be the maximum available sentence.

Although the statement was visionary, based upon the Court’s ultimate decision in Sweet, it was ignored.  A fiscal note was not attached to SF 448.

For two years, all we heard is that judges wanted some guidance in sentencing youth who were convicted of 1st degree murder.  We insisted on a reasonable approach that took into consideration all the state and federal lawsuits that have been decided on the matter.  What happened?  Prosecutors and judges blew it.  As an option, life without the possibility of parole became the norm, not the exception.  How often was this matter going to have to go back up to the Iowa Supreme Court before hard-nosed prosecutors and intimidated judges would understand the meaning of “cruel and unusual punishment”?  The holding in Miller v. Alabama is clear:

Graham, Roper, and our individualized sentencing decisions make clear that a judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles. By requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regard­less of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes, the mandatory sentencing schemes before us violate this principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual pun­ishment.

Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. ____ (2012) (Page 27).

The law that passed did not identify which criteria were mitigating and which were aggravating circumstances.  To make matters worse, they were interspersed within the law, leaving to the imagination whether an event in a juvenile’s life was a mitigating or aggravating factor.  As we argued during the legislative process, lawmakers should look at the process required in death penalty cases to understand the meaning of this process.  It was ignored.  Justice Appel, who wrote the majority opinion, relied heavily upon case law derived from capital opinions.

Justice Mansfield, in his dissent, references the Iowa Legislature’s overwhelming support for the legislation passed in 2015.  He didn’t mention that the legislation passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee “without recommendation”.  The large margins between the “aye” votes and the “nay” votes is based more on fear of voting against a bill that may be considered to be “soft on crime” than it is to stand up for the Iowa and U.S. Constitutions.

Justice Wiggins’ bravely-worded concurrence in the Sweet case should put an end to the unrealistic claims of those who believe murderers will be let out of prison as soon as they get there.

The dissent contends our decision today means the parole board will release every juvenile from prison at some point in the future. That contention is nothing more than fear-mongering.

But fear-mongering is politically easy.  To listen to most politicians, you want to think that sentencing reform is all the rage.  That’s not necessarily true.  The Iowa Supreme Court has the sense and ability to lead Iowa into a new era of using a rational thought process in our sentencing schemes.  Many legislators are lagging behind.

Senate File 448, a bill “relating to the commission of a class “A” felony by a person under eighteen years of age”, passed the Iowa Senate 47-3.  The same three legislators who voted against the bill in committee voted against it on the floor.  Again, we wish to thank Senators Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant), Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines), and Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) for their opposition to SF 448. Thank you!

In the House, the following courageous representatives voted against this bill:

Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines); Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines); Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids);  Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo);  Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque);  Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines); Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines); Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville); Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City); Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City); Jo Oldson (D-Des Moines); Rick Olson (D-Des Moines); Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids); Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids); Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids);  Phyllis Thede (D-Bettendorf); Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport); and Mary Lynn Wolfe (D-Clinton).

Thank you to the 18 representatives above who listened to us and our message that SF 448 was a constitutional challenge in the making.

We hate to say, “We told you so”, but we did.

 

Vindication #2

For too long, we have heard about how risk assessments will save money by placing only those people in prison who are most likely to recidivate.  That’s not the way to sentence criminals.  Further, we have alluded to the possibility that sentencing defendants based upon risk assessments will eventually lead to larger discrepancies in the number of minority to non-minority ratios of Iowans incarcerated.

ProPublica.com, “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest”, asked The Sentencing Commission for results of sentencing based upon these assessments.  The Commission had not launched a study, so ProPublica.com conducted one of its own.  The results are not surprising to us.

  • Black defendants were often predicted to be at a higher risk of recidivism than they actually were. Our analysis found that black defendants who did not recidivate over a two-year period were nearly twice as likely to be misclassified as higher risk compared to their white counterparts (45 percent vs. 23 percent).
  • White defendants were often predicted to be less risky than they were. Our analysis found that white defendants who re-offended within the next two years were mistakenly labeled low risk almost twice as often as black re-offenders (48 percent vs. 28 percent).
  • The analysis also showed that even when controlling for prior crimes, future recidivism, age, and gender, black defendants were 45 percent more likely to be assigned higher risk scores than white defendants.
  • Black defendants were also twice as likely as white defendants to be misclassified as being a higher risk of violent recidivism. And white violent recidivists were 63 percent more likely to have been misclassified as a low risk of violent recidivism, compared with black violent recidivists.
  • The violent recidivism analysis also showed that even when controlling for prior crimes, future recidivism, age, and gender, black defendants were 77 percent more likely to be assigned higher risk scores than white defendants.

Read the article here.

Rating a defendant’s risk of future crime is often done in conjunction with an evaluation of a defendant’s rehabilitation needs. The Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections now encourages the use of such combined assessments at every stage of the criminal justice process. And a landmark sentencing reform bill currently pending in Congress would mandate the use of such assessments in federal prisons.

 

The “sentencing reform bill” referred to in the ProPublica article is the legislation U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is touting as an historic nonpartisan effort to “addresses legitimate over-incarceration concerns while targeting violent criminals and masterminds in the drug trade.”  http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/senators-introduce-landmark-bipartisan-sentencing-reform-and-corrections-act-2015   This bill has problems other than the risk assessments, which we hope to detail in future issues.

This past session, Iowa legislators squeezed a couple of risk assessment applications into law through a few end-of-the-session bills.  Like the federal law, an important aspect is missing – overview and analysis.  Is it working the way it was designed?

The Polk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council met last week.  On the agenda was a risk assessment update.  It appears as though the Fifth Judicial District Correctional Services Department [CBC] is looking into using risk assessments at the pre-trial level.  A four step process for the CBC to receive funding from the Justice System Partners includes:

  1. Site Assessment
  2. A Formal Report
  3. A Memorandum of Understanding with the Foundation (Laura & John Arnold Foundation)
  4. Implementation

Implementation seems to be the final step in most of these concepts.  Follow-up and project analysis may be a hidden part of the overall process, but we believe it must be identified upfront.  It is our concern that any evaluation should not be conducted by the same entity validating the assessments.  We go a step further and recommend that an evaluation and assessment of the program be conducted by an independent third party with no apparent conflict.

Oh, an observation.   If polygraph results are not admitted as evidence in criminal cases because it “measures a person’s biological processes to determine if they are experiencing a physiological event, such as an increase in blood pressure or heart rate”, shouldn’t courts find that assessments are inadmissible in the sentencing process because they lack the capacity to detect the reality of future events?

The Bottom Line:  Risk assessments are biased against blacks.

We hate to say, “We told you so”, but we did.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

Report is coming soon.

JRC Law Day Newsletter

Vol. 7 #8 May 1, 2016

LAW DAY

Staggering Paths

The front page article in The Des Moines Register on Sunday, May 1, 2016 entitled “Drunken driving deaths rise, but fewer licenses revoked”, by Kathy Bolten brought to light a change in registration by lobbyists for the Justice Reform Consortium (JRC) on proposed legislation regarding pilot projects for the 24/7 Sobriety Program.  The article stated that:

The Iowa Senate passed the proposal, but it stalled in the Iowa House. Among the groups registered against it were the Justice Reform Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which prefers mandatory ignition interlock devices.

We reported the details of this program in the February 8, 2015 JRC Newsletter article.  Last year JRC was registered as “undecided” on the bill because we were open to the possibility of a program that allows a person to stay out of jail and maintain employment.  We had objections last year to the cost of participating in the program and continued to have objections during the 2016 Legislative Session.  Since the person participating in the program is required to bear the expense for the devices and/or drug testing, the cost becomes prohibitive and justice is not well served.  The bill required the tests to be conducted at least twice a day.  Although the program was voluntary, the cost would be restrictive for the poor, leading to the inability to participate.

This session, the driving force for the 24/7 Sobriety Program wasn’t public safety; it was a battle over which manufacturer would provide the devices for any particular program.  It was truly politics at its worst, complete with substantial conflicts of interest by the lobby.  In the midst of this political mess were legislators who sincerely care about finding a solution to this difficult and destructive issue.

One of the main problems with seeking a solution to this issue is that substance misuse; substance abuse and addiction are completely different problems and need to have different approaches.   For example, an addict should not be put into a program that requires them to think about drugs and alcohol through a mandated 24/7 testing program.  This is counterproductive to long term recovery.  The goal for recovery is to not think about drugs and alcohol 24/7.   In contrast, a person who lacks experience and makes one bad decision from substance misuse and sincerely regrets it should not be given a life-long criminal record that may very well escalate the problem, pushing him or her right into substance abuse because positive opportunities no longer exist.

What was missing from the discussion in both chambers, which historically is always missing from these meetings, are people knowledgeable about the differences in substance misuse, substance abuse and addiction and the consequences for passing these laws.

A law that should be changed if the true goal is to keep chemically impaired people from getting behind the wheel is the law governing public intoxication.  Current laws have created a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario.  If you walk home after drinking too much you can be picked up by the police and thrown in jail.  For an intoxicated person, it may seem like the odds are better to drive versus walk since driving gets you where you are going faster (barring any crashes) and either staggering path potentially leads to jail.

There’s money riding on the outcome of this legislation.  Although it failed this year, we predict it will come up again early next year.

 Stephanie Fawkes-Lee

 

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

We held off a week in publishing this edition of the JRC Newsletter because the end of the session was so close.  The Eighty-six Iowa General Assembly adjourned sine die (Latin word for “Please Go Home”) last Friday, April 29 while still daylight.

We will have a future issue with complete coverage on JRC matters just as soon as we can get the garden in and the yard mowed.

 

JRC Newsletter April 11, 2016

Vol. 7 #7 April 11, 2016

Re-sentencing Of Damon Calaway

The re-sentencing of Damon Calaway was held on Thursday, March 24, 2016 with Judge Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt presiding.  Daniel Voogt was the lawyer for the state and Erin Carr was the lawyer for Mr. Calaway. Calaway’s lawyer was not allowed to see him before the trial.  There were about 15 supporters of Mr. Calaway present.  One of the judge’s staff asked if the lawyers needed to speak to the judge in her chambers before the hearing began.

Apparently Mr. Calaway’s lawyer had requested that Mr. Calaway be allowed to retain an “expert witness” at the state’s expense.  This witness would be from a group of advocates that would gather information about the client as outlined in the Miller decision.  This was denied.    A packet containing letters of support and an e-mail from a counselor stating that he has reached the highest level was submitted.

The judge asked the lawyers to tell her what they felt she needed to do regarding the options. Mr. Carr spoke of Mr. Callaway’s childhood stating he had no role models; no one there to say what is right or wrong.  He got involved with gangs.  In prison he acted out in early years, but had no major reports since 2008.  He has been a leader in groups and has done volunteer work.  He is not the rare case that deserves Life without Parole.  He was recommending 50 years with parole and 25 years with parole running concurrently.

The lawyer for the state recommended LWOP.  He feels the decision of the jury can’t be disregarded.  This was a crime committed by a gang, but Mr. Calaway pulled the trigger.  “I don’t know what more rare and uncommon case would be found.”

Mr. Calaway was asked if he would like to make a statement. “I ask for forgiveness from everyone here who loves me, as they are serving life with me.”   He asked for forgiveness from the victims.  He asked for opportunity based, not on innocence or guilt, but on whether he has changed.  “I am not the boy who went to prison, prison saved my life.  I made the worst decision of my life.  I am not a violent person.”

The judge stated she would give her decision on Monday at 4:00 pm.  We all assembled on Monday at 4:00 pm and then were told that the court room was in use and to come back on Tuesday at 8:30 am.  On Tuesday, the judge re- sentenced Damon to “Life Without Parole.”  He has 30 days to appeal.  Needless to say, this was very hard for the family and friends to hear.

Jean Basinger, IC4JJ Focus Group

Board of Corrections Meeting

The Iowa Board of Corrections met in Davenport at the 7th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services on April Fool’s Day, April 1, at 9:00 am.  Everyone was welcomed by Waylyn McCullough, the district director, who mentioned that the 7th District is the smallest of the eight Community-Based Corrections in Iowa, and it is the only one without a prison.

Several things occurred at this meeting that might be considered odd to the frequent BOC attendee.  Oddity #1:  For the second meeting in a row, only four directors attended.

Oddity #2:  Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff opened his remarks by informing those in attendance that the two fugitives from Newton had been apprehended.  However, he failed to mention that the state is appealing a district court ruling in Polk County in which Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled that “Iowa inmates have a right to a lawyer when fighting Department of Corrections (sic) decisions that can add time to their sentences.”  The district court decision was delivered in plenty of time for the Department to report its findings to the Board.  It is odd that this information was not shared with the Board.

Oddity #3:  The only handouts were the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting.

Oddity #4:  The entire meeting lasted fewer than 50 minutes.

Oddity #5:  Assistant Professor Steve Kalber, a psychiatric nurse and 9th year clinical professor at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, presented a program that is a collaborative effort between St. Ambrose and the 7th Judicial District CBC.  Called “Health Coaching”, nursing students come into the District Offices on Main Street and meet with offenders.  The students discuss items such as physical health, mood, relationships, work, and short term goals with offenders.  The program itself is not odd at all, but Professor Kalber said that “knowledge doesn’t change behavior”.  That quote seems to contradict the DOC programs that rely heavily upon cognitive behavioral treatment, which are based on using knowledge to change adverse thinking and behavior.

Oddity #6:  Professor Kalber admitted that a few offenders just sit there with their arms folded and refuse to participate.  After the presentation, Board member Larry Kudje asked about confidentiality.  It was disclosed that offenders are told before meeting with a student that “interactions will be shared with probations officers”.  Perhaps that isn’t odd after all.

What wasn’t odd about the meeting was the appointment and approval of Kris Weitzell as the new warden at the Newton Correctional Facility.  Come to think of it, it was strange that Ms. Weitzell was approved without discussion by the Board.  But to his credit, Director Bartruff gave a lengthy introduction filled with praise and respect for Weitzell.  It left the Board with little room for discussion or further questions.

The next Board meeting will take place at the Anamosa State Penitentiary at 406 North High Street in Anamosa at 9:00 am on May 6th.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:

HF 2399 – This bill enhances penalties and creates an unfair process for determining who will be sentenced to a term of incarceration and who will receive a sentence of probation.  A risk assessment is required to be performed on a defendant prior to sentencing.  We have always maintained that risk assessments are appropriate for the Parole Board, but their use as a sentencing factor is constitutionally questionable.   The bill allows the court to order electronic monitoring, so long as the defendant pays for the costs associated with the monitoring, installation, etc.  Electronic monitoring will allow authorities to determine where the abuser may be, but it will not provide information “to authorities” as to whether the victim is in the near vicinity.  Moreover, a Fiscal Note of March 7 states:

Minority Impact

One-third of Domestic Abuse-3rd convictions in FY 2015 were committed by African Americans. In year four of this bill’s effect, it is estimated that 71 additional inmates will be serving sentences. Of these 71, 23 (32.2%) are estimated to be African American. This will lead to a disproportionate minority impact, as African Americans currently make up 3.4% of Iowa’s population.

When a fiscal note shows the projections for potentially incarcerating a disproportionate number of minorities as high as this one, we question what alternatives have been initiated to reduce incidents of domestic abuse before attempting to enhance penalties.  Unfortunately, the legislative process becomes the first thought of change in too many cases.  It should be the ultimate last.  This is the second time this year a bill has had the momentum to become law with a heavy projection of increasing the disproportionate representation of African-Americans in prisons and jails in Iowa.  SF 2115 was signed into law by the governor earlier this month.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill, as does the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence [ICADV] and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault [CASA].  HF 2399 passed the House 86-12 on March 8.  It was amended by the Senate and passed 50-0 on April 6.  Please contact your representative and urge a “No” vote on this bill.

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. HF 2333 passed the House 96-0 on March 2.  It has been placed on the Senate’s Unfinished Business Calendar

The following bills have passed both chambers and await the governor’s attention:

SF2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  JRC has been “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0.  It passed the House 97-0 on March 30.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24. It was amended and passed the House 98-0 on March 29.  The amendment enhanced the penalty for “invasion of privacy” from a serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor.  The Senate concurred with the House amendment and passed the bill for the second time by a vote of 50-0 on April 6.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  SF 2016 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It was amended and passed the House 96-1 on March 15. Because it was amended, it was sent back to the Senate for its approval on the new language.  The Senate concurred in the House language and passed it for the final time 49-1 on April 6.  It now goes to the governor for his approval.

The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 and $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing.  HF 2401 passed the House 96-1 on March 2; it passed the Senate 49-0 on March 16. Governor Branstad signed the bill on March 30.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law and this bill changes the mandate to a suggestion.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It passed the House 95-0 on March 17.  It was signed by the governor on April 6.

SF 2115 – The legislation adds “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSED” this measure.  It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd. It passed the House 86-10 on March 15.  We requested a veto from the governor on March 21st.  The governor signed the bill into law on March 30.  There was no fiscal note for this year, but a previous year’s fiscal note with similar language had a Fiscal Note attached that projected a disproportionate minority impact: “approximately 20.8% of offenders may be Black or American Indian”.  The Fiscal Note also projected that “50% of defendants will be indigent”.  We fear these estimates are very conservative given that interference with official acts is used liberally.

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor, as it passed the House.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons.  See Alice’s Restaurant JRC Newsletter, Vol. 7 #5. The bill passed the House by a vote of 71-26 on March 2.  The Senate amended the bill and passed it 47-0 on March 22.  Because it was amended, it was sent back to the House one more time with the Senate’s language, which is a substantial improvement.  It changes the criminal penalties back to the civil penalties that exist now.  The House concurred in the Senate amendment and passed it 94-2 on March 28.  The governor signed it into law on April 6.

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.  Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28.  Signed by the governor on March 11

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25. It passed the House 97-1 on March 1.  Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.

Find out who your legislators are here.

Selected links:

Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/04/nyregion/federal-housing-officials-warn-against-blanket-bans-of-ex-offenders.html?partner=rss&emc=rss By MIREYA NAVARRO The New York Times, APRIL 4, 2016.

$12M sought for wrongful jailing $12M sought for wrongful jailing on Page A1 of Friday, April 08, 2016 issue of Star Tribune

March 27 [Easter Sunday] Newsletter

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:

SF 2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  We’re going to see one of these bills every session as long as chemists can determine which molecule to alter/delete/add so that the ban on one specific combination of molecules provides the same unrealistic adventure as its grandfather, without being specifically banned.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0.  It is on the Unfinished Business Calendar in the House.

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of persons charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24. It is on the Unfinished Business Calendar in the House.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  SF 2016 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It was amended and passed the House 96-1 on March 15. Because it was amended, it now goes back to the Senate for its approval on the new language.

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. HF 2333 passed the House 96-0 on March 2.  It has been placed on the Senate’s Unfinished Business Calendar

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor, as it passed the House.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons.  See Alice’s Restaurant JRC Newsletter,  Vol. 7 #5.  In the previous newsletter, we claimed that “On March 8, the bill was returned to the Committee, which effectively choked its chances of being enacted this year.”  That is incorrect.  The bill had passed the House earlier by a vote of 71-26 on March 2.  The Senate amended the bill and passed it 47-0 on March 22.  Because it was amended, it must pass the House one more time with the Senate’s language, which is a substantial improvement.  It changes the criminal penalties back to the civil penalties that exist now.

The following bills have passed both chambers and await the governor’s attention:

SF 2115 – The legislation will add “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSE” this measure.  It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated.  During a previous session, a bill with similar language had a Fiscal Note attached that projected a disproportionate minority impact: “approximately 20.8% of offenders may be Black or American Indian”.  The Fiscal Note also projected that “50% of defendants will be indigent”.  We fear these estimates are very conservative given that interference with official acts is used liberally.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd. It passed the House 86-10 on March 15.  It is enrolled and ready to be sent to the governor for his approval or veto.

On March 2, we asked readers of this newsletter to contact their respective state representative and encourage your representative to OPPOSE SF 2115. You made a difference. Though we didn’t get our anticipated outcome, several representatives listened and voted according to your desires. Please take time to thank your legislator.

Those representatives (5) voting AGAINST SF 2115, JRC’s position, in the Public Safety Committee meeting of March 3 include:  Reps. Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines); Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines); Rick Olson (D-Des Moines); Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames); and Mary Lynn Wolfe (D-Clinton).

Those representatives (10) who voted AGAISNT the bill on the House Floor include:  Reps. Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines); Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines); Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo); Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines); Lisa Heddens (D-Ames); Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines); Charles Isenhart (D-Dubuque); Jo Oldson (D-Des Moines); Rick Olson (D-Des Moines); and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames);

Please send these legislators a “thank you” note, expressing your gratitude for their opposition to Senate File 2115.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, also.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It passed the House 95-0 on March 17.  The bill is enrolled and ready for the governor’s signature.

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 with $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing.  HF 2401 passed the House 96-1 on March 2; it passed the Senate 49-0 on March 16. The bill is enrolled and ready for the governor’s signature.

The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC was “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.  Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28.  Signed by the governor on March 11

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC was declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25. It passed the House 97-1 on March 1.  Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.

Find out who your legislators are here.

 

Selected links:

A Mailman Handcuffed in Brooklyn, Caught on Video http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/nyregion/glen-grays-the-mailman-cuffed-in-brooklyn.html?partner=rss&emc=rss By GINIA BELLAFANTE.  The New York Times, MARCH 25, 2016.

A Few Facts About US State Prisons: http://justicereformconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/A-Few-Facts-About-US-State-Prison.pdf John NeffFEBRUARY 14, 2016

To the chagrin of ex-offenders, some New York companies are allegedly failing to comply with the state’s Fair Chance Act, which is part of the “Ban the Box” movement. The Influence The Marshall Project. Tuesday, MARCH 22, 2016,

Private DNA tests could end up in police custody on Page A2 of Sunday, March 27, 2016 issue of Star Tribune

March 15 Newsletter

Raccoon Hunting Season Again

Several years ago, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate that would allow an adolescent to go raccoon hunting with a grandfather.  It passed the Senate and was sent to the Natural Resources Committee in the House.  The House NR Committee passed it out on to the floor for debate.  When the bill was brought up for debate a phenomenal event occurred.  The subject of the bill, raccoons, became doves.  Lo and behold, legislation allowing for the hunting of mourning doves emerged from the raccoon hunting bill.  The bill went back to the Senate for its approval and hit the governor’s desk within 24 hours, where he signed it into law.

The Iowa House is at it again.  It’s trying to change apples into oranges.  The first bill introduced in the Senate during the 2015 Legislative Session, Senate File 1, passed the Senate last year 31-19 and was sent to the House.  SF 1 is a bill which states:

If the lowest responsive bid received by the state for products or other purchases is from an out-of-state business and totals less than five hundred thousand dollars, and an Iowa-based business submitted a bid which is within five percent or then thousand dollars of the price of the lowest bid, whichever is less, the Iowa-based business which submitted the lowest responsive bid shall be notified and shall be allowed to match the lowest bid before a contract is awarded.

The House didn’t take up the bill last year, but the House State Government Committee brought it up recently and amended it by striking everything the Senate approved and inserting language that a “department or agency is not required to comply with” Iowa Code sections requiring “any department or agency of state government” to purchase goods manufactured by Iowa State Industries (often called “Prison Industries’).

Iowa State Industries teaches offenders within the Iowa Department of Corrections skills compatible with jobs outside the prison walls.  The IPI provides instruction and hands-on skills in areas of furniture-making, textiles and apparel, manufacturing and specialty printing.  It teaches offenders to be on-time, productive, and respectful of the workplace setting.  It’s a valuable program producing quality manufactured goods and future successful citizens upon inmate releases.

Destroying this program has often been a goal of some legislators that believe the private sector should be the sole source of goods and services provided by the IPI.  Contrary to some remarks, Prison Industries does not compete with outside sources.   “Employment of inmates in private industry shall not displace employed workers, apply to skills, crafts, or trades in which there is a local surplus of labor, or impair existing contracts for employment or services.”  Iowa Code Section 904.809(1)(d).  Diluting the program or eliminating it will do nothing positive.

Some facts about Iowa Prison Industries:

  • “Iowa Prison Industries is a self-supporting division of the Department of Corrections. Revenue from the sale of products pays for all cost of operation, including civilian salaries, offender allowances, raw materials, and equipment. No tax dollars are appropriated by the legislature.”
  • IPI helps to “develop within those inmates willing to accept and persevere in such work:
    • Positive attitudes which will enable them to eventually function as law-abiding, self-supporting members of the community;
    • Good work habits that will assist them in eventually securing and holding gainful employment outside the correctional system; and
    • To the extent feasible, marketable skills that can lead directly to gainful employment upon release from a correctional institution.”
  • IPI enables inmates to:
    • Provide or assist in providing for their dependents, thus tending to strengthen the inmates’ family ties while reducing the likelihood that inmates’ families will have to rely upon public assistance for subsistence;
    • Make restitution, as the opportunity to do so becomes available, to the victims of the offenses for which the inmates were incarcerated, so as to assist the inmates in accepting responsibility for the consequences of their acts;
    • Make it feasible to require that such inmates pay some portion of the cost of board and maintenance in a correctional institution, in a manner similar to what would be necessary if they were employed in the community; and
    • Accumulate savings so that such inmates will have funds for necessities upon their eventual return to the community.

A record roll call was taken in the House State Government Committee and SF 1, as amended, passed 12-10.  Those voting “No” included: Reps. Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City), Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo), Dennis Cohoon (D-Burlington), Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines), Dan Kelley (D-Newton),  Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City), Todd Prichard (D-Charles City),  Sally Stutsman (D-Riverside),  Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids, and Cindy  Winckler (D-Davenport).

Legislators often receive messages to vote for this; oppose this; do or don’t amend a particular bill; etc.  They seldom receive a kind message of appreciation.  Thank them – Please!

Alice’s Restaurant – Live! At the Capitol

“You can get anything you like at Alice’s Restaurant.”

The song – Alice’s Restaurant – and later, the movie by the same name, came to life at the Iowa Capitol last week.  Arlo Guthrie, son of noted folk singer Woody Guthrie, recorded a song back in the late 1960s (over 18 minutes long) based upon an actual event. It dealt with “littering”, or as we like to call it at the Iowa Capitol, “illegal dumping.”

The satirical song is a staple of many radio stations across the country on Thanksgiving Day.  At least, it has been.  Guthrie and a friend cleaned out an old church for some friends and took the garbage to a dump.  Being Thanksgiving Day, the dump was closed.  So Guthrie, familiar with the territory, took the garbage to a common dumping ground and added the church junk to the eyesore.  Within a day, the sheriff had arrested the two and threw them in jail.

The sheriff had 27 colored photos as proof of the incident and provided them at trial.  However, the presiding judge was blind, which rendered the photos useless.  Nonetheless, Guthrie and friend were fined $50 and ordered to clean up the mess.  (The sheriff and judge play themselves in the movie.)

The whole point of the song and movie is that the crime prevented Guthrie from being drafted because he had no moral character.  He couldn’t believe it!  Littering (or illegal dumping) was cause for him to be rejected from the Army; the same Army that was – according to Guthrie – responsible for burning women, children and villages.  And he was declared not moral enough because of his crime.

House File 2385’s original intent was to enhance the penalty for littering from a simple misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor [simple misdemeanor = Up to 30 days in jail and $625 in fines; serious misdemeanor = Up to 1 year in jail and $1875 in fines].  Also, the original bill allowed the court to order the litterbug to pay for the cost of cleaning up the litter.  But the House amended the bill by eliminating the reference to littering and making it a bill about illegal dumping.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is punished with a civil fine of not more than $1,000.  The bill removes the punishment of the civil fine and turns it into a criminal act with the penalty being a serious misdemeanor.  On March 8, the bill was returned to the Committee, which effectively choked its chances of being enacted this year.

We’re not sure, but supposedly proof of illegal dumping would have to include: “twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.”

It’s just one of those bills that seem to bring back memories of the sixties and seventies.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:

SF 2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  We’re going to see one of these bills every session as long as chemists can determine which molecule to alter/delete/add so that the ban on one specific combination of molecules provides the same unrealistic adventure as its grandfather, without being specifically banned.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24.

SF 2115 – JRC wrote about this bill last Jan. 31st. At the time, we referred to the bill as

 Senate Study Bill 3007.  We also mentioned this bill in the most recent newsletter, also.  The legislation will add “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSE” this measure.  It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, also.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 with $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing. 

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

The following bills have failed to make it out of a committee in both chambers and are considered dead for this year (caution – a bill may be dead, but an issue lives forever):

Senate File 84 – A bill leftover from last year, this is a version of “Ban the Box”.  JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill. 

SF 2267 – The Racial Profiling bill.  A few amendments were proffered to help acquire votes for the bill, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough support.  JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill.  According to the Des Moines Register article of March 13, 2016, Second funnel: What survived in the Iowa Legislature, by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel, Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) said “she still hopes to advance the data collection provisions of the proposal by including them in a budget bill later this session.”

HF 2309 – A bill for an act relating to controlled substances, including by modifying the penalties for controlled substances containing cocaine base, enhancing the penalties for imitation controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, and providing penalties.  Equalizing the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine is a priority of JRC.  This bill makes an attempt to bring the threshold amount of each closer to each other, but fails in equalizing the penalties for possessing similar amounts of these two pharmacologically identical substances.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill for several different reasons.

HF 2323A bill that would enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles. This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed and “SUPPORTS” this legislation.

HF 2334 – This bill would allow certain psychologists to prescribe particular medicines under special conditions.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

HF 2367 – Establishes a prearrest diversion program.  The overall concept is okay, but JRC has some problems with this bill.  JRC is declared as “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

HF 2379 – A bill that requires the impoundment of a vehicle when the driver has been charged with operating while license is revoked, suspended, denied or canceled.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill. 

SF 2289A bill that criminalizes the mistreatment of animals that are not livestock or game, and enhances penalties under certain circumstances.  JRC is registered as “UNDECIDED” on the bill because it is estimated that animal abuse crimes “will result in an estimated increase of 26 convictions annually.”  The estimated result of convictions is not significant enough for JRC to justify working against this issue.  The bill passed the Senate 32-16 on February 25.

SF 2183 – A bill extending the statute of limitations from 3 to 10 years in child endangerment cases.  Although JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, we have grave concerns about extending the statute of limitations beyond 3 years, except in cases involving murder. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 23.

HF 2064 – Penalty enhancements.  This bill enhances the penalty for child endangerment when the act results in the death of a child.  JRC consistently opposes legislation that enhances penalties without empirical evidence, but this bill has more than just the “we oppose all enhanced penalties” argument. 

HF 2399This bill is an attempt to solve problems of assault in relationships.  The provisions of the bill go far beyond what is consistent with other Iowa law regarding criminal acts.  The bill also combines criminal with civil remedies, a combination that should not get started in statutory law.  JRC is “OPPOSED” to this bill.

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons.  See Alice’s Restaurant above

The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.  Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28.  Signed by the governor on March 11

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25.

It passed the House 97-1 on March 1.  Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.

Find out who your legislators are here.

February 28 Newsletter

February 28, 2016

Everyone’s Talking Sentencing Reform?

It seems as though a lot of talk has been focused on sentencing reform this year.  Iowa’s senior senator in Congress has bragged about a bill that will reform a federal sentencing statute.  Iowa’s governor has boasted about his Working Group to address specific issues related to disparate sentencing of African-Americans.  In his Condition of the Judiciary speech, Chief Justice Cady also called for sensible solutions to Iowa’s prison population.  So, we should expect a reduction in prison population numbers any day now, right?  Don’t hold your breath.

We have reviewed the bills that survived the Iowa Legislature’s first funnel deadline and have observed that not everyone received the public’s message that it wants true sentencing reform.  Some of the legislative bills that enhance penalties this year are somewhat sensible.  Yes, you should not mistreat animals, and the resulting penalties in SF 2289 seem to fit the crime.  On the other hand, House File 2064 classifies child endangerment resulting in death of a child as a forcible felony (defendant must serve 70% of the sentence before being considered for parole), based upon the idea that one legislator didn’t think the punishment fit the crime.  But as it seems in matters of getting tough of crime, there’s more to the story.

There are two instances that come to mind when thinking about the death of child and an adult charged with child endangerment resulting in death; shaken baby syndrome and Christian Science Religion.  In these cases, if the parent is the one charged, the child’s death is an eternity of punishment.  Losing a child is not normal – under any circumstances.

There is a difference between 1st degree robbery, kidnapping, other forcible felonies, and the charge of child endangerment resulting in death.  Perhaps a violation of child endangerment resulting in death is not an oversight.  There are going to be instances in which the person charged does not have the criminal intent similar to someone committing the act of 1)murder in the second degree; 2) attempted murder; 3) sexual abuse; 4) kidnapping in the 2nd degree; 5) robbery in the 1st or 2nd degree; or 6) vehicular homicide when driving drunk.

Praying over a sick child should not result in serving 35 years in prison without an opportunity to be heard.  And a minute of frustration should not be worth 35 years of sitting in regret.  “[C]ases of shaken babies, crying is the most frequent trigger mechanism that causes good people to make a really poor decision and shake them just to try to get them to stop crying.” Observing that shaking is commonly precipitated by frustration over fussiness is not the same as suggesting that fussiness often leads to shaking.” Seymour v. City of Des Moines, 519 F. 3d 790, 798 8th Cir. 2008). These instances should be weighed on a case-by-case basis, and the judgment of a parole board panel should be the proper venue for determining when a regretful parent should re-enter society, not a one-size-fits-all statute that cannot determine between mean and sorrowful.

Enhancing penalties should come with a pretty darn good explanation.  In the past, Iowa legislators have failed to do that.  Today, they’re much better in seeking all the answers before jumping to conclusions that may haunt families forever.

RC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

 The following bills have already seen a vote in one chamber or the other:

Senate File 2289A bill that criminalizes the mistreatment of animals that are not livestock or game, and enhances penalties under certain circumstances.  JRC is registered as “UNDECIDED” on the bill because it is estimated that animal abuse crimes “will result in an estimated increase of 26 convictions annually.”  The estimated result of convictions is not significant enough for JRC to justify working against this issue.  The bill passed the Senate 32-16 on February 25.

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25.

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24.

SF 2183 – A bill extending the statute of limitations from 3 to 10 years in child endangerment cases.  Although JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, we have grave concerns about extending the statute of limitations beyond 3 years, except in cases involving murder. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 23.

 F 2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  We’re going to see one of these bills every session as long as chemists can determine which molecule to alter/delete/add so that the ban on one specific combination of molecules provides the same unrealistic adventure as its grandfather, without being specifically banned.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0

SF 2115 – JRC wrote about this bill last Jan. 31st. At the time, we referred to the bill as  Senate Study Bill 3007.  We also mentioned this bill in the most recent newsletter, also.  The legislation will add “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSE” this measure.  It has no purpose but to punish the mentally ill and intoxicated.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, also.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.

The following bills are ready for debate sometime in the next two weeks:

HF 2064 – Penalty enhancements.  This bill enhances the penalty for child endangerment when the act results in the death of a child.  JRC consistently opposes legislation that enhances penalties without empirical evidence, but this bill has more than just the “we oppose all enhanced penalties” argument.  Here is what we said about it two weeks ago:

HF 2064 – A bill sponsored by a Democrat and Republican in the House, this supposedly non-controversial bill is “OPPOSED” by JRC. It would add the criminal offense of felonious child endangerment to the list of forcible felonies. Under the provisions of the bill, “an offender who commits the criminal offense of child endangerment that results in the death of a child or minor [must] serve 70 percent of a 50-year class “B” felony sentence. Under current law, such an offender is sentenced to confinement for 50 years but is eligible for parole upon entering prison.” Perhaps it seems logical to equate the sentence to the criminal act. However, there are some religions that experience the death of child when the parents rely upon means to treat the child outside the medical community. The tenets are deep and serious. To harshly punish these particular parents for what they believe to be the child’s best interest, according to their religion, is an overreach. JRC believes that just because a person is eligible for parole upon entering prison, the practice has never been as simple as the phrase suggests.

HF 2407 – A bill for an act relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records.  JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill. 

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 with $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing. 

HF 2399This bill is an attempt to solve problems of assault in relationships.  The provisions of the bill go far beyond what is consistent with other Iowa law regarding criminal acts.  The bill also combines criminal with civil remedies, a combination that should not get started in statutory law.  JRC is “OPPOSED” to this bill.

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons. 

HF 2379 – A bill that requires the impoundment of a vehicle when the driver has been charged with operating while license is revoked, suspended, denied or canceled.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill. 

HF 2367 – Establishes a prearrest diversion program.  The overall concept is okay, but JRC has some problems with this bill.  JRC is declared as “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

HF 2334 – This bill would allow certain psychologists to prescribe particular medicines under special conditions.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.

HF 2323A bill that would enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles. This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed and “SUPPORTS” this legislation.

HF 2309 – A bill for an act relating to controlled substances, including by modifying the penalties for controlled substances containing cocaine base, enhancing the penalties for imitation controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, and providing penalties.  Equalizing the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine is a priority of JRC.  This bill makes an attempt to bring the threshold amount of each closer to each other, but fails in equalizing the penalties for possessing similar amounts of these two pharmacologically identical substances.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill for several different reasons.

 

The second legislative funnel arrives on March 11. On that date, bills that have passed out of a committee in one house by the Feb. 19 deadline must pass out of a committee in the chamber across the rotunda in order to be eligible for debate during the remainder of the session.   

PETITION

The following petition is a noble effort at trying to get the attention of legislators to get rid of mandatory minimums. JRC does not endorse nor sponsor the petition, but if you would like to sign it, please do. It is our belief that the legislators to whom this petition is directed are not necessarily the best recipients. To that end, we suggest that if you do sign this petition, take the time to inform YOUR legislators about your disappointment with mandatory minimums.

https://www.change.org/p/mary-wolfe-tell-iowa-legislators-to-revise-the-70-mandatory-minimum-sentencing-laws

Find out who your legislators are here.

Valentine’s Day Newsletter 2016

Vol. 7 #3 February 14, 2016

It’s The Same Thing

The discussion about how crack cocaine and powder cocaine differ has been ongoing for decades.  Most of what you have read is probably not true.  The United States Supreme Court identified the difference as “two forms of the same drug”. Kimbrough v. United States 128 S.Ct. 558, 566 (2007).  That’s the only difference.  Pharmacologically, they are the same thing.  Unlike comparing powder or crack cocaine to LSD, heroin, or methamphetamine, crack and powder possess the same physiological and psychotropic effects.

In a Sentencing Commission report to Congress, the report stated that “Congress apparently believed that crack was significantly more dangerous than powder cocaine in that: (1) crack was highly addictive; (2) crack users and dealers were more likely to be violent than users and dealers of other drugs; (3) crack was more harmful to users than powder, particularly for children who had been exposed by their mothers’ drug use during pregnancy; (4) crack use was especially prevalent among teenagers; and (5) crack’s potency and low cost were making it increasingly popular.”  Citing Kimbrough at 567 (internal citations omitted.)  The observations of Congress that this report exposed were hyperbole.

The Washington Post, Salon.com, and The Drug Policy Alliance consist of only 3 of many organizations pointing out the many myths associated with crack cocaine.  As the diagram below shows, there is virtually no difference between the molecular makeup of the two drugs.  It’s the same thing.

The Iowa Public Safety Advisory Board, way back in 2010, and each subsequent year since, recommended to the Legislature that it reduce the disparity between crack and powder to a ratio of 3:5 rather than the current 1:10.  It’s true that the PSAB vote was 9 to 6 in favor of this plan, but that is not an indication of the consensus that the Board had reached when it agreed that there should be an equalization of the two substances.  The disagreement of how to achieve that equality was represented in the vote. https://humanrights.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/media/PSAB%20Report%202012.pdf  page 4.  The Board reached its decision on the 3:5 ratio based upon fact – the “distribution of the amount of drugs seized” by law enforcement agencies.

The Iowa County Attorneys Association has come up with a new myth, and shared it with members of subcommittee in the Senate on Senate Study Bill 3127, “an act modifying the criminal penalties for a controlled substance that contains cocaine base”.  It has suggested that the dosage unit for crack is much less than a dosage unit for powder, and therefore, the ratio should be 1:5.  This appears to be an approach that was based upon an unscientific poll.  Even if it wasn’t, we don’t base drug crimes on the amount of similar substances consumed.  For instance, Ice is made from methamphetamine, but the possession of a particular amount of one is the same as it is for the other.  Did the ICAA compare snorting cocaine with smoking crack?  How about injecting cocaine?  You can only smoke crack.  You can only smoke methamphetamine ice.  And, you would use much less heroin by injecting than you would smoking it.  Yet, possessing the same amount of heroin for smoking, snorting, injecting, or lacing is static.  Under no other scheme is dosage a cause for administering penalties.

JRC prefers to see a 1:1 ratio between the two drugs.  We insist that the threshold amounts of crack be raised to meet those of the current weights of cocaine.  That time has not arrived.  We will settle with the considerate recommendation of the PSAB.  It’s time to quit playing games and look forward to what this bill (SSB 3127) is meant to accomplish – the decline of Iowa’s unjust disproportionate incarceration of young African-American men in state prisons.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The first legislative funnel is fast approaching.  Many people in Iowa can tell you what is meant by legislative funnel deadlines.  For those new to the state, or new to the love of political maneuvering, there are two funnel dates that appear on the Iowa Legislature’s calendar.  The first of these dates occurs this year on Friday, February 19.  This means that most issue-related bills must pass out of a standing committee by Friday in order to be eligible for debate.  Those that do not pass out of committee are considered non-viable for the rest of the session.  The second funnel deadline occurs on March 11.  On that date, bills that have passed out of a committee in one house by the Feb. 19 deadline must pass out of a committee in the chamber across the rotunda in order to be eligible for debate during the remainder of the session.   

We have listed below some bills that have made it out of committee, and a few that will need to get out of committee this week in order to be viable:

Senate File 84 – A bill leftover from last year, this is a version of “Ban the Box”.  JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill.  A subcommittee meeting on the bill was held on Tuesday, Jan. 19.  A subsequent subcommittee was held on Thursday, February 11.  Subcommittee members are:  Senators Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), Chair; Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant); and Julian Garrett (R-Indianola).  The bill may come up for consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee at any time this week.

House Study Bill 536 – A bill that would enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles.  This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed and “SUPPORTS” this legislation.  The bill has been reviewed by a subcommittee and is expected to be considered by the House Public Safety Committee on Monday, Feb. 15.

SF 2164 – The bill provides for an expungement of records process when a criminal defendant has been convicted of certain crimes (public intoxication, simulated public intoxication, public consumption of alcohol, etc.) after two years have passed and the defendant has had no other convictions except for minor traffic violations.  JRC “SUPPORTS” this measure.  The bill is on the Senate Debate Calendar.  The floor manager is Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant).

SF 2115 – This bill adds “jailers” to a list of occupational groups (police, EMS, firefighters, etc.) in which a person may be charged with “interference with official acts”.  Previously, we wrote about our opposition to this bill (when it was Senate Study Bill 3007) in an article entitled “Animal Farm Returns to the Capitol”.  JRC Newsletter, Jan. 31, 2016.  JRC “OPPOSES” this concept because it allows a “he said” – “she said” misunderstanding to be turned into a criminal matter, easily.

SF 2059  – This is the Iowa Department of Corrections’ lone bill for the session.  JRC is declared as “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  The bill has two parts.  First, it changes language in the Iowa Code that requires the department to establish a Violators Program.  The bill changes the requirement (“shall”) to “may”.  Second, it gives the department the ability to reduce the time a forcible felony offender must stay in residential housing before being released.  It gives the Parole Board discretion, with recommendation by the District Department of Community-based Corrections, to release offenders earlier than the current one-year requirement.  Although JRC appreciates the common sense approach to the latter, the former has left us dismayed.  We believe the Violators Program was effective.  Unfortunately, the Department’s ability to fully fund programs of worth is fading, due to the Legislative and Executive Branches goal of achieving status quo budgets.

The following bills have passed out of a subcommittee and are awaiting consideration by committees in the House:

HF 2064A bill sponsored by a Democrat and Republican in the House, this supposedly non-controversial bill is “OPPOSED” by JRC.  It would add the criminal offense of felonious child endangerment to the list of forcible felonies.  Under the provisions of the bill, “an offender who commits the criminal offense of child endangerment that results in the death of a child or minor [must] serve 70 percent of a 50-year class “B” felony sentence.  Under current law, such an offender is sentenced to confinement for 50 years but is eligible for parole upon entering prison.”  Perhaps it seems logical to equate the sentence to the criminal act.  However, there are some religions that experience the death of child when the parents rely upon means to treat the child outside the medical community.  The tenets are deep and serious.  To harshly punish these particular parents for what they believe to be the child’s best interest, according to their religion, is an overreach.  JRC believes that just because a person is eligible for parole upon entering prison, the practice has never been as simple as the phrase suggests.

HF 2023 – This bill eliminates the crime of public intoxication and simulated public intoxication.  Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton), the bill’s sponsor, said that this crime is “the only crime in which we (Iowans) punish a state of being instead of an act.”  Our neighboring states of Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Kansas, and Wisconsin do not have public intoxication statutes.  As mentioned in a subcommittee meeting of Feb. 11th, the offense of public intoxication is often a “tack-on” offense.  In other words, it is often one of many charges brought against a person surrounding one incident.  JRC “SUPPORTS” this effort to remove an archaic criminal matter.  It’s like creating the crime of being fat!

 

Selected links:

 

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) criticizes Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in WSJ Letter-to-the-editor, and Grassley responds:  http://www.wsj.com/articles/feds-criminalize-things-that-arent-crimes-1454614019 The Wall Street Journal, FEB. 4, 2016

 

From The Marshall Project: “One of the more important subplots in the congressional drama over criminal justice reform centers on the Latin phrase “mens rea,” literally “a guilty mind.” Republicans want any reform bill to include language requiring the government to prove actual intent in order to win a criminal conviction. The Justice Department and some liberal reformers see this as a conservative trick to hobble enforcement of corporate crimes — it being harder to pin down the “intent” of a faceless corporation. But in an op-ed in The New York Times, Gideon Yaffe, a Yale law professor, makes the liberal case for mens rea reform — explaining how it can be harnessed to the advantage of the poor and minorities.Bill Keller

 

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UPCOMING EVENTS

The next program meeting of Iowa CURE will be February 21 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, corner of 8th and College, 1548 8th St. in Des Moines.  Our speaker will be Dr. Jerome Greenfield, the newly appointed mental health director for the Iowa Department of Corrections.  He will speak about the work he is doing in his new position.  Dr. Greenfield practiced psychiatry in the Des Moines area for many years and is highly respected for his work.

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Iowa State Representative Helen Miller

Invites you to join her at the

Iowa Central Community College, BioScience Building

Fort Dodge, Iowa

 

Iowa Criminal Justice Summit 2016

 

Program begins at 9:00 am

Iowa Criminal Justice Summit Special Guest and Keynote Speaker Lamont Carey has an amazing story to tell about his life and experiences both then and now. Hearing his story is a testament to the Youth, Society and Communities of Today – giving hope, awareness and realness to the Criminal Justice System. His story is the core of the Summit, you don’t want to miss it.

Saturday, February 20th 9:00 a.m.

 

ICCC BioScience Health Auditorium.

 

Lamont is first on program – he will begin to speak at 9:15 a.m. Actor, Spokenword Artist, Motivational Speaker, Business Coach, Entrepreneur and Author…Mr. Lamont Carey.