Justice Reform Consortium Final Report for 2017 Legislative Session

Vol. 8 #9 July 16, 2017

Final Report

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

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

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

Selected links:

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

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

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

UPCOMING EVENTS
Please consider being a member or contributor!

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

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

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

Vol. 8 #6 April 2, 2017

What’s Going On?

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

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

House File 579: See Funny Sentencing Reform below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny Sentencing Reform

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

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

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

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

PSAB decision:

Amend IA Code 124.401 for the amounts of crack cocaine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Guest Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected links:

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

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

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

Here is my contribution of $________________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

Jean Basinger

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________

City: ____________________________State__________Zip_______________

 

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

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

 

February 26, 2017 Newsletter of JRC

Vol. 8 #4 February 26, 2017

The Silence Was Deafening

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

“Was I speeding?”

“Is one of my lights out?”

“Did I blow a stop sign?”

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

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

“Will I survive?”

“Will I see my family again?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 JRC Opposes Sentencing Reform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my contribution of $________________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

Jean Basinger

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address:  ________________________________________________________

City:  ____________________________State__________Zip_______________

 

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

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

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

Please join us!

 IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

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

Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

3700 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

 

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

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

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

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

 

 

 

January 29, 2017 Newsletter

Vol. 8 #2 January 29, 2017

2017 Legislature

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

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

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

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

 Valentine’s Day at the Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my contribution of $________________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

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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

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

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

Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

3700 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

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

 

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

IOWA JUSTICE ACTION NETWORK

LOBBY DAY

 

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2017

 

9:00 AM UNTIL 1:00 PM

 

9:00 AM       Speaker

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

 

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

 

10:00 AM     Briefing on conversations with state legislators

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1:00 PM        Lobby Day ends

 

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

 

PLEASE JOIN US TO MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD!

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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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.

 

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

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

Here is my contribution of $_______________________________

Submit your subscription payment to:

Jean Basinger

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address:  ________________________________________________________

City:  ____________________________State__________Zip_______________

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

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

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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Des Moines, IA 50311

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

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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.

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

Copyright © 2016.  You may copy, download and print the information in this newsletter provided you do so in an unaltered manner, with full copyright acknowledgement and website link.  This newsletter may also be found online in PDF format at:  http://justicereformconsortium.org/?page_id=19

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

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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