JRC Newsleetter, February 4, 2018

Death and Taxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HSB 569, Part 1

HSB 569, Part 2

HSB 569, Part 3

HSB 569, Part 4

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

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

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

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

Selected links:

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

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

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

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

 UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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

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 SAVE THE DATE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

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

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

Voices to be Heard also meets in Cedar Rapids:

Voices to be Heard, Cedar Rapids

2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month

6 to 7pm

Lundby Townhomes, 845 31st Av. SW.

Contact, Melissa 515-229-2645

1st JRC Newsletter of 2018

Vol. 9 #1 January 22, 2018

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Death Penalty Legislation

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

 Lifetime Registration

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

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

However, things have changed.

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

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

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

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

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

JRC is watching closely the progress of this legislation.

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Life after Prison:  A New Guide for Iowans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contacts

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

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

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

Testimonial:

Dec. 19, 2017

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

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

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

Tom Schilling

IMCC/Oakdale

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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

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

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

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SAVE THE DATE!

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

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

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

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

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

Justice Reform Consortium Final Report for 2017 Legislative Session

Vol. 8 #9 July 16, 2017

Final Report

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

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

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

Selected links:

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

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

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

UPCOMING EVENTS
Please consider being a member or contributor!

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

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

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

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

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

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

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

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

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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 . . .

January 31, 2016 JRC Newsletter

Vol. 7 #2 January 31, 2016

IOWA CAUCUS EVE

Animal Farm Returns to the Capitol

Some people just don’t get it.  Some do.

A subcommittee meeting on House File 2020, a bill “enhancing the penalty for certain assaults against a sports official”, adjourned without the members of the subcommittee approving the bill for further consideration.  During the meeting, eight high school students from Estherville High School observed the process of legislators and lobbyists vetting the bill.

After the bill failed to pass out of the subcommittee, JRC Legislative Advocate Marty Ryan asked if any of the students had read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Every one of them had read it and enjoyed it.  Ryan had compared these types of bills to a quote from the book:  “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Estherville students readily grasp this concept, but it seems like some organizations and the members that belong to them cannot apprehend this picture.

A week earlier, in the chamber across the rotunda, another subcommittee meeting was held on a bill, Senate Study Bill 3007, an act “relating to the criminal offense of interference with official acts at county jails, municipal holding facilities, and judicial district departments of correctional services, and providing penalties.”

SSB 3007 does not address the matter of assault, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the testimony in the room.  Examples were being brought up in which jailers were assaulted, and threatened to be assaulted.  These examples are NOT what should constitute the crime of interference with official acts.  They are assaults and should be treated like assaults.  And jailers are already included in the list of occupations in which a person assaulting the official will receive an enhanced penalty.  [Iowa Code Section 708.3A]

These “Animal Farm” 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 a sports 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.  There exists no empirical evidence that enhanced penalties will prevent one person from assaulting another.  Nor is there any sort of evidence that the penalty involved in an assault will protect anyone.

Interference with official acts is a “he said, she said” incident.  Many jailers are not law enforcement officers and have no authority to issue a citation to an inmate in a jail.  An investigating officer is going to weigh the testimony of a jailer so far above that of a defendant that the scales of justice will fall off the shelf.  Trust us on this one.

In the past 20 years, the list of occupations that are referenced in Section 708.3A[1] has grown exponentially.  The House subcommittee panel did the right thing.

HF 2020 and SSB 3007 epitomize the vanishing promise of equality related to us in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Equality is a relationship between man and man. It’s one of mankind’s ultimate ideals. 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 – that this law will protect them.

After sports officials, who’s next?  Coaches?  Cheerleaders?  Mascots?  Representatives in the House don’t want to go there.  Extending the law of interference with official acts to jailers is a push off the slippery slope.  Senators need to be cautious.  Jailers have to deal with drunks, the mentally ill and obnoxious citizens who think they know someone special who will come to their aid.

We admire the tolerance and patience of jailers.  Hopefully, they will continue their professionalism and receive the respect all of us have to offer, without want of more legislation that will surely keep the rough inmates from spending more time under their authority.

[1] 708.3A  Assaults on persons engaged in certain occupations.

  1. A person who commits an assault, as defined in section 708.1, against a peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter, whether paid or volunteer, with the knowledge that the person against whom the assault is committed is a peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter and with the intent to inflict a serious injury upon the peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter, is guilty of a class “D” felony.

A Different Kind Of Drug War

There has been an ongoing turf war going on at the Iowa Capitol between psychologists wanting to be educated and trained in order to prescribe psychotropic medication and the various entities within the medical community who fear this change.  As with any war, there is collateral damage, and in this case it is those dealing with limited and affordable services for mental illness.  Legislators demonstrated frustration that the stakeholders, who had been instructed to meet during the interim to seek a solution, failed to do so.

Justice Reform Consortium is monitoring this issue, although we are very supportive of any effort to meet the needs of the mentally ill in the community instead of in a correctional setting.  After all, carrying a criminal record isn’t conducive to mental health. Nonetheless, during the subcommittee meeting, a doctor who works within the correctional setting was lobbying passionately against giving prescriptive authority to psychologists, touting the positives of treating the mentally ill in prisons.

Those registered against this legislation (House Study Bill 503) include:  Iowa Psychiatric Society; Iowa Medical Society; Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association; Iowa Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics; Iowa Academy of Family Physicians; Polk County Medical Society.

Those that support this legislation: Iowa Psychological Association; Iowa Primary Care Association; Iowa Behavioral Health Association; Epilepsy Foundation; Iowa Annual Conference of United Methodist Church; Easter Seals Iowa; Polk County – Board of Supervisors; Iowa State Association of Counties.  The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) supports this initiative, but is not registered on the bill.  There are a host of others registered as undecided.

History of the prescribing psychologists’ movement

“The movement to grant psychologists the right to prescribe psychotropic medication took root in the late 1960s when the APA identified psychopharmacology as a discipline of psychology.

  • 1991-1997: The Department of Defense begins a six-year trial program to train 10 psychologists to prescribe medication at assigned military bases. The program was successful, demonstrating that psychologists can be taught to prescribe safely. Some of the psychologists are still prescribing and appropriately trained psychologists may now be credentialed to prescribe in the Defense Department, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Indian Health Service.
  • 2002: New Mexico becomes the first state to enact a law allowing appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications.
  • 2004: Louisiana passes legislation providing prescribing rights to psychologists.
  • 2014: Illinois enacts legislation granting prescriptive authority to licensed psychologists with additional specialized training in psychopharmacology.
  • The need is great and the evidence is clear: Allowing prescribing rights for psychologists is an essential step to providing thousands of patients with access to comprehensive mental health care.”

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The Senate is churning bills out faster than an automobile assembly line.  The House has been more selective and deliberate.  The following consists of two bills that are on the move:

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

Senate Study Bill 3057 AND House Study Bill 536 – These two companion bills enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles.  This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed.  Both bills have been reviewed by subcommittees and are expected to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Public Safety Committee.

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.

[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.

Selected links:

Obama Bans Solitary Confinement of Juveniles in Federal Prisons  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/obama-bans-solitary-confinement-of-juveniles-in-federal-prisons.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0  Michael D. Shear.  The New York Times, JAN. 25, 2016

Justices Expand Parole Rights for Juveniles Sentenced to Life for Murder  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/justices-expand-parole-rights-for-juveniles-sentenced-to-life-for-murder.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 ADAM LIPTAK.  The New York Times, JAN. 25, 2016.

Massachusetts Chief’s Tack in Drug War: Steer Addicts to Rehab, Not Jail  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/us/massachusetts-chiefs-tack-in-drug-war-steer-addicts-to-rehab-not-jail.html?partner=rss&emc=rss KATHARINE Q. SEELYE  The New York Times, JAN. 24, 2016

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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Fort Dodge will host meeting on Iowa’s Criminal Justice System

The Bioscience and Health Sciences Building on the Iowa Central Community College Campus is the location of what Rep. Helen Miller (D-Fort Dodge) calls a “mini criminal justice reform gathering”.

The “mini-conference” will begin at 9 am on Saturday, February 20.  Please mark your calendar.

Issues to be discussed on the 20th will include (but not necessarily be limited to):  the rights of Iowans who have committed felonies (or perhaps the lack of those rights); racial disparities in sentencing schemes; and the process of regaining citizenship.

For more information contact:  Rep. Helen Miller (D-Fort Dodge) 515/570-3535 or helenmiller49@yahoo.com   www.facebook.com/helen .miller.49

We will have updated information in the next JRC Newsletter.

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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.  It is a good idea to contact Melissa ahead of time because the group provides dinner and a head count is preferred.  Contact Melissa at 515/229-2645 for more information.

Voices to be Heard has formed also in Cedar Rapids.  We hope to have more information on the Cedar Rapids meetings in subsequent newsletters.  Meanwhile, 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., February 16th 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

UPCOMING PROGRAM

We welcome Katrina Carter, Assistant Deputy Director-Offender Services, Iowa Department of Corrections.  Katrina will speak with us about the new treatment program that will replace STAR (Sisters Together Achieving Recovery).

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.

Newsletter From Late January Available

Vol. 4 #2 January 25, 2013

The Governor’s Budget

Governor Branstad has included in this year’s budget an increase in funding for community-based corrections (CBCs). The increase doesn’t fully fund the CBCs, but it does make some significant progress in opening the vacant facilities that have been shuttered for quite some time. However, as expected, there are concerns.

 

The 1st Judicial District in Waterloo was seeking $1,140,322 for operational costs and an additional 20 new Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions, and the governor’s budget has recommended an increase in the 1st Judicial District Community-Based Corrections (CBC) by $687,409. Also, the governor recommends an increase of 14.5 FTEs.

 

What does that mean in simple talk? It means this: The Women’s Center for Change is a building (see photo below) in Waterloo that was built two years ago. It has the capacity to house 45 women in a residential setting, but that portion of the building (north end) has been sitting empty since construction was completed in April, 2011. Most people refer to a building such as this as a halfway house. Kraemer Brothers.com

 

Without funding, the facility is half empty. That’s not what halfway house is supposed to mean. The south side of the building contains offices and a conference room. That part of the building is occupied, but only during business hours when parole and probation officers are utilizing the much needed office space to see clients and perform other duties. The north side of the building sits empty, except for the unused equipment and furnishings that are new, but have warranties that have long expired.

 

The governor’s budget recommendation probably will allow the north side of the building to open its doors to women in the 1st Judicial District who are lined up on waiting lists to move in. Currently, some of those women are housed in another facility in Waterloo that also houses men. Some of the women on the waiting list are in prison and awaiting a bed to make the transition from the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women at Mitchellville back into society. A few women are waiting to serve a brief sentence under Iowa’s Operating While Intoxicated laws.

 

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and 2015 budget recommendations are designed to provide for some of the needs of the Iowa Department of Correctional Services, 1st Judicial District. If the Legislature agrees, the doors to the Waterloo Women’s Center for Change might be able to open later this year with an additional 14 ½ employees (FTEs) and funding to provide for a portion of the operational costs. That’s where we have a huge concern. Is it possible to partially fund a project that cannot operate without all the pieces in place? If you halfway fund a halfway house does it become a quarter-house? Okay, bad joke aside, if you haven’t visited the facility it’s difficult to understand why someone would want to partially open the unused portion. It would not take that much more to utilize fully the entire residential portion.

 

Likewise, the governor’s budget recommendation allows an increase in $647,015 and 12 FTEs for the 3rd Judicial District CBC. The 3rd Judicial District is located in Northwest Iowa (Woodbury and surrounding counties). The funding will help open up the Linn A. Hall Center, the newly built residential facility in Sioux City. The 3rd CBC District was seeking $867,410 and 14 new FTEs.

 

The proposed budget also includes additional funding for the 7th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. The 7th Judicial District was looking for funding of $714,147 and will receive $467,880 if the governor’s budget is enacted unchanged. Additionally, the 7th Judicial District requested 13 FTEs and the proposal calls for 9.5 new FTEs. The 7th Judicial District has a work release center that is not operating at full capacity at this time. The funding and increase in FTEs will allow the Davenport area CBC to house more transitional offenders.

 

And finally, the 8th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, located in southeaster Iowa, will receive an increase in funding for the expansion of the Ottumwa Residential Correctional Facility. The CBC had requested $687,678 and 9.35 new FTEs. Under Governor Branstad’s proposal it would receive $350,382 and 6.4 new FTEs.

 

The projections above are proposals made by the governor at the request of the Department of Corrections (DOC). Iowa’s General Assembly can increase the funding, decrease the amounts, or eliminate any proposals in its entirety or partially. It is up to you to contact your legislators and ask them to, at a “minimum”, go along with the governor’s recommendations, but to reach further into the pockets of the state’s pants and pull out some of that surplus revenue to spend on our state’s community-based correctional facilities.

 

A 195-page document produced by the Fiscal Services Division of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency is available at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/LSA/SC_Fisc/2013/SFBAL000.PDF

 

 

 

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

CORRECTION: In the most recent edition of the Justice Reform Consortium Newsletter (January 6), we informed readers about a workshop on learning how to design your own criminal justice advocacy plan that suits your style and your needs. There were a couple of incorrect pieces of information in that notice. Please use the corrected version below:

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

IOWA CURE LEGISLATIVE WORKSHOP

WHEN: THIS SUNDAY! JANUARY 27, 2 TO 4 P.M.

WHERE: GRACE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH,

38TH & COTTAGE GROVE AVENUE, DES MOINES, IA

WHAT: Learn how to design a criminal justice advocacy plan that fits your lifestyle and personality

WHO: This workshop is sponsored by Iowa CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants), but is open to anyone who feels there is a need for change in the Iowa criminal justice system.

COST: Free (There will be a free-will offering basket for contributions to cover workshop expenses)

LEADERS: Marty Ryan and Stephanie Fawkes-Lee, Legislative Advocates for the Justice Reform Consortium will be our leaders. They have many years of experience in working with our legislators.

The workshop will last approximately 1-½ hours followed by coffee and refreshments. Area legislators have been invited to attend the latter part of the program.

PLEASE REGISTER!

You will receive valuable information, which includes a legislative agenda for 2013, as well as basic lobbying information about how the legislature works.

Please contact Marty Ryan at mrtyryn@gmail.com to let him know that you are coming so that he may prepare an appropriate amount of written materials.

If you are a member of the Iowa CURE community inside the walls of an Iowa prison, PLEASE share this information with your family and friends. Together we can make a difference. We need to come together and plan how we can work for a prison system based on restorative justice (making things as right as possible for everyone touched by crime).

Planning Committee Members:

Carolyn Walker Uhlenhake,

Mary Kay Dial,

Sr. JoAnne Talarico

 

The JRC Legislative Agenda for 2013 – Where are we?

 

 

Capital Punishment – We hope that this is the last time we’ll have to mention this issue for this year. Other than a senator or two, there is no interest to debate this matter. We are confident the votes necessary to pass this bill in either chamber do not exist.

 

Restraints of pregnant prisoners – The Department of Corrections (DOC) has made some changes in its confidential policy. But since it’s confidential, we can’t be sure. The Des Moines Register has a feature article by Jason Clayworth on this issue. We are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to work with other organizations and legislators to ensure the safety and comfort of the unborn baby and mother through sensible legislation that will provide consistency throughout the state.

 

Certified translatorsSenate Study Bill 1034 and House Study Bill 6 relate to interpreters and translators for limited English proficient participants in legal proceedings and in court-order programs. We will follow up on any activity associated with these bills as it occurs.

 

 

Contributions to JRC are appreciated and needed.

 

Please help us with your generous contribution today.

 

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_______________

 

 

Interesting links worth viewing:

 

For Drug Users, a Swift Response Is the Best Medicine

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/for-drug-users-hope-in-a-swift-response/?emc=eta1

On the Chopping Block 2012:

State Prison Closings http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/On%20the%20Chopping%20Block%202012.pdf

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

AMOS held its second Court Watch training this week at Bethel AME Church in Des Moines. Thirty people completed the training and AMOS now has sixty trained Court Watchers. Because of word of mouth and Thursday’s (January 24) Des Moines Register Opinion AMOS has several additional people interested in becoming Court Watchers. A date for a third training has not been set but it will be sometime in March. If you have not attended a training session and would like to, please let us know. And if you know anyone else who you think would be interested feel free to pass this information along.
AMOS Justice

organizingforjustice@gmail.com

 

AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy), is a local IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation) broad-based, non-partisan, community organization comprised of 28 community institutions. We believe that ordinary people, working together, can accomplish great things in a democracy and have a say in the destiny of their own community.

 

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The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., February 19th at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

 

In February, Jason Carlstrom, chair of the Iowa Parole Board will be our presenter. Mr. Carlstrom graduated from Simpson College in 1995, worked as a professional pilot until 2001 when he attended Drake Law School. He worked in private practice until September 2010 when he started working in the Dickinson County Attorney’s office. In November of that year he was elected to the position in November 2010 and took office in January 2011. He was appointed chair of the Iowa Board of Parole by Governor Branstad in July of 2012 and started his term in September of last year. He looks forward to addressing us and encourages those present to ask questions and participate in the discussion.

 

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 Union Park Methodist Church (East 12th & Guthrie in Des Moines) from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes. It is a good idea to contact Melissa ahead of time because the group provides dinner and a head count is preferred. Contact Melissa at 515/229-2645 for more information.

 

The 2013 Winter Edition of the Iowa CURE Newsletter and the legislative agenda of the Justice Reform Consortium are now posted on our website. http://www.iowacure.org/

 

The Iowa Chapter of CURE will have a legislative workshop on Jan. 27 from 2 to 4 at Grace United Methodist Church, 38th and Cottage Grove in Des Moines. Marty Ryan and Stephanie Fawkes-Lee will provide the leadership for this event. There will be state legislators present with whom participants can visit informally. If you are planning to come please RSVP to Marty at mrtyryn@gmail.com so he can prepare a packet of materials for you.

 

Justice Reform Consortium member organizations: Iowa CURE & Iowa Coalition 4 Juvenile Justice; Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners; Trinity United Methodist Church; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Voices to be Heard; ACLU of Iowa; Social Action Committee, Des Moines Presbytery; Des Moines Chapter of WILPF; American Friends Service Committee; Plymouth Congregational Church, Board of Christian Social Action; Iowa Annual Conference, UMC; Iowa NOW and Des Moines NOW; National Association of Social Workers; Beacon of Life; Citizens for Undoing Racism-War on Drugs Task Force.

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

Copyright © 2013. 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 and at: http://iowappa.com/?page_id=407

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

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A Copyrighted Article from the Washington Post

Time to end the war on drugs

By Katrina vanden Heuvel, Tuesday, November 20, 6:29 AM

With his final election behind him, and the final attack ads safely off the air, President Obama now returns to his regularly scheduled programming — governing. Yet, the chatter about his second term agenda, from deficit reduction to immigration reform, ignores one critical issue: ending our nation’s inhumane, irrational — and ineffective — war on drugs.

Since its launch in 1971, when President Nixon successfully branded drug addicts as criminals, the war on drugs has resulted in 45 million arrests and destroyed countless families. The result of this trillion dollarcrusade? Americans aren’t drug free — we’re just the world’s most incarcerated population. We make China look like Woodstock. We’re also, according to the old definition, insane; despite overwhelming evidence of its failure, our elected officials steadfastly refuse to change course.

But on November 6, citizens in Colorado and Washington became the first to approve ballot initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Their success illustrates growing tolerance and, indeed, support for a smarter approach that could change, and even save, countless lives.

Now, the question is how the federal government will respond to these new state laws, since they directly conflict with existing federal restrictions on drugs. Recreational use might be legal in the eyes of Colorado and Washington, but Uncle Sam can still put the boot down.

President Obama has a choice. He could direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to crack down and prevent the two states from moving forward. Or he could finally, fully embrace sensible drug laws.

There are reasons to be encouraged. During the 2008 campaign, Obama pledged to leave state medical marijuana laws alone. He seemed to sympathize with the African American and Latino communities, disproportionate casualties of the drug war. Surely, Obama knew that one chance run-in between his youthful “choom gang” and the police years ago would have deprived him of the office he holds today.

In October 2009, the DOJ declared that the federal government would not prosecute individuals, including distributors and cultivators, found in possession of marijuana, as long as they were complying with state medical marijuana laws.

The following year, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which dropped the five-year mandatory minimum sentencing for simple possession of crack cocaine. The law also reduced the unjust disparity in federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine.

But in October 2011, the DOJ began large-scale raids on medical marijuana cultivators and distributors, state law be damned. Federal authorities have since raided and shut down 600 dispensaries in California alone. A fine use of law enforcement resources in these austere times.

Enough is enough. The president should instruct the DOJ to de-prioritize marijuana-related cases in states that allow for medical marijuana, and to allow Colorado and Washington to move ahead with implementation of their new laws. He should ensure that federal appointees dealing with the issue, including U.S. Attorneys, are fair-minded.

And he should take the fight to Congress, where members of both parties might be able to find common ground. Obama can lead across party lines by seeking out libertarian members of the GOP to join him in crafting better drug policies. In fact, in May, Democratic Reps. Sam Farr (Calif.) and Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.) joined with Republican Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) on a bill that would have cut federal funding for the Justice Department’s marijuana busts. And Senator Rand Paul recently indicated he might work with Democrat Pat Leahy to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession.

Meanwhile, if left free of federal intrusion, Colorado and Washington might become a model for legalizing and taxing marijuana. If successful, the experiment could yield millions in tax revenues and drastically decrease incarceration rates, while giving members of Congress more incentive to change federal law. It could even help improve U.S. relations with Latin America, and help demilitarize our hemispheric policies with our closest neighbors, particularly Mexico.

If Congress fails and, four years from now, a new president instructs the DOJ to crack down again, any such reforms would be at risk. But if Colorado and Washington show positive results, the public, which already believes the drug war has failed, might support wider implementation, and perhaps force a federal solution.

To be sure, Colorado and Washington are not the final battlefields of the war on drugs. Marijuana is not the sole drug behind our astounding incarceration rate for nonviolent drug-related crimes. We’re a long way from a just system that addresses drug use with treatment rather than punishment. Still, we might be one step closer to ending our failed attempt at marijuana prohibition, much as, in 1933, public opinion finally brought an end to alcohol prohibition.

In the first proclamation of Thanksgiving, President Lincoln acknowledged the many gifts bestowed by a god who, “while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” This holiday, as President Obama pardons the traditional turkey, let’s hope he also considers the millions of Americans trapped in a cruel, senseless system. May he heed Lincoln’s words and offer them forgiveness and, above all, hope.

Read more from Opinions: George F. Will: Should the U.S. legalize hard drugs? Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen: Technology can be harnessed to fight drug cartels in Mexico Jill Harris: Drug policy no longer a third rail Martin Austermuhle: Will the D.C. Council regulate medical marijuana to death?

© The Washington Post Company

A TIME article on the Death Penalty

TIME August 7, 2012

Dancing Around the Death Penalty

We tie ourselves into knots wondering when executions might be defensible, but this is the wrong question to be asking

By ERIKA CHRISTAKIS | @erikachristakis | August 7, 2012 |

19

Central casting couldn’t produce a better illustration of what’s wrong with the death penalty than Marvin Wilson, the 53-year-old Texan with an IQ of 61 who is (barring an unforeseen stay) scheduled for execution this evening. With the mental age of a 6-year-old, he reportedly had trouble mastering basic self-care skills like tying his shoes and counting change. His alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of police drug informant Jerry Williams was always unclear; no evidence or eyewitness reports directly linked him to the murder, and his alleged co-conspirator, Terry Lewis, escaped with a life sentence (with parole) when his wife testified that Wilson had confessed the crime to her.

Yet, the focus on extreme cases like Wilson’s — and whether he is legally and somehow “legitimately” executable despite his mental incapacity — prevents us from facing a larger truth that all state-sanctioned executions are a shameful relic of a bygone era along with the burning of witches and the use of child labor in mines.

In nearly every way, we live in a more civilized and less violent world, with dramatic declines in homicide, rape, assault, child abuse, animal cruelty and discrimination against the vulnerable. We have also acquired an ever greater understanding of the biological and social determinants of crime. Paradoxically, we tie ourselves in knots with this newfound sophistication, searching for a mythical sharp line where mitigating factors may or may not justify a death sentence. Does a brain injury from child abuse suffice? What about a parentless teenager who was led astray by a sociopath? What about a schizophrenic whose paranoia resulted in refusing to take his medications? Poverty? Retardation? Autism?

But these mental gymnastics are morally and logically bankrupt, and we cheapen ourselves by deploying them. Our eye-for-an-eye approach to the death penalty is getting progressively harder to support with reason. We know the death penalty doesn’t deter people. We know it is extremely expensive to apply “fairly.” So the only remaining arguments are emotional — the most compelling of which is that the families of murder victims want it.

(Interestingly, the “closure” defense of the death penalty only gained traction in the early 1990s when deterrence arguments came up short and states found it increasingly difficult to bear the costs. Yet, defending the death penalty out of revenge or sensitivity to the victims’ families does a disservice to the many families who do not want this kind of justice. “It’s almost like if you really loved the person who was killed, you should seek the death penalty,” Kate Lowenstein, program staff at Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (and the daughter of a murdered father), explained to TIME.

Moreover, many of the people who witnessed the execution of a loved one’s murderer have stated that it failed to give them the closure they were looking for. This shouldn’t surprise us given renowned Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert’s research on “affective forecasting,” and specifically the striking inability of most people to accurately anticipate their future emotional states. People think something will make them happy; but we are actually not very good at forecasting our response to even common experiences.

One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is the delegation of justice to a third party rather than to a vengeful mob with flaming torches. It’s true that support for the death penalty remains higher (around two-thirds of the population) than in 1966 (42%) when the death penalty was illegal. This puts us in the dubious company of rogue states like Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. But it’s also true that just because the majority wants it does not mean it is correct. We cheapen our government — and ultimately ourselves — by requiring the state to have a hand in what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun once called the “machinery of death.”

We can keep “tinkering” with the practice of executions, as Blackmun noted, keeping Marvin Wilson alive for a few more years while we kill a more obviously despicable person, all in the hope that we can keep our hands clean. We can’t.

Christakis, M.P.H., M.Ed., is a Harvard College administrator who blogs at ErikaChristakis.com. The views expressed are solely her own.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/08/07/dancing-around-the-death-penalty/#ixzz22sZb3YLm

Imprisoned in America

This book review was originally printed in:

David Garland

William J. Stuntz
THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE
415pp. Harvard University Press. £25.95 (US $35).
978 0 674 05175 1

Published: 30 May 2012

The scandal of criminal justice in the United States is by now a familiar one, its facts are well known, its causes extensively canvassed. So what can another book tell us that we don’t already know? A surprising amount, as it turns out. The existing analyses are mostly conducted by sociologists and political scientists. William J. Stuntz brings the perspective of a law professor – focused on substantive law, procedural rules, and the evolution of legal doctrine. He reminds us that, whatever its underlying social, political and cultural causes, the build-up of racialized mass imprisonment was the product of legal actors – police, prosecutors and judges – and the legal rules and organizational incentives that governed their actions. And if America’s astonishing levels of imprisonment, its harsh sentencing, and its racial disparities are tolerated, it is because the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that they comply with constitutional law.

The book also offers a different political perspective. Most critiques of American criminal justice are by liberals and progressives, but Bill Stuntz – who died, aged fifty-two, shortly before this book was published – was a registered Republican, an evangelical Christian, and a revisionist thinker with a fondness for “law and economic” perspectives. His viewpoint is refreshingly unpredictable and runs against the grain of conventional wisdom. It is a devastatingly critical account nevertheless. American criminal justice is, he writes, devoid of the rule of law, “wildly unjust” and the “harshest in the history of democratic government”.

The core problem, Stuntz says, is the massive and unrestrained power of police and prosecutors. Over the past forty years, criminal law in the US has become all-encompassing. There are now 40,000 federal criminal offences – above and beyond the state crimes that constitute the vast majority of offences (and which also grow apace). Many of these new offences, above all, drug and gun legislation, require little evidence, no proof of criminal intent, admit of little mitigation, and carry harsh penalties. Instead of restraining officials, criminal law provides them with an extensive battery of weapons which they can use as they see fit.

The criminal trial has virtually disappeared

Armed with these discretionary powers, prosecutors pile on charges. (Earlier this year, a New Jersey student who spied on his room-mate with a webcam was convicted by a state court of fifteen separate offences which carried a potential ten-year prison sentence, though he was eventually jailed for thirty days and fined $10,000.) Easy-to-prove charges are used to convict individuals suspected of hard-to-prove crimes – so much so that Stuntz suggests the decades-long “war on drugs” is best understood as an oblique attempt to combat urban violence. (“The war on drugs and the politics associated with it makes sense only on the assumption that drugs were not the war’s primary target. Violence was.”) Be that as it may, such “pretextual” prosecutions are now a trademark of the American criminal justice system. When prosecutors were unable to convict Martha Stewart on charges of insider trading, they charged her instead with lying to federal investigators. As they say in Washington, it’s never the crime, always the cover-up.

Martha Stewart went to trial, was found guilty and sent to prison. But the vast majority of offenders respond to prosecutorial pressure by settling for a plea bargain and a lesser sentence. Ninety-five per cent of all felony convictions now result from a guilty plea. The criminal trial has virtually disappeared. The American defendant’s fate is decided not by a jury of peers, but by powerful officials with virtually unchecked discretion.

Without this cut-price assembly-line adjudication, mass imprisonment would not be possible. And without rampant discretion, one would not have such scandalous disparities. African Americans exhibit high rates of criminal violence, so we might expect them to be over-represented in prison, but not to the current extent. They are nine times more likely than white Americans to serve prison sentences for drug crime, though about the same proportion of each group uses illegal drugs. And unequal justice includes under-protection as well as over-punishment. The homicide rate in the affluent, racially integrated neighbourhood of Hyde Park, Chicago, is 3 per 100,000. In adjacent Washington Park, where most residents are poor and black, the rate is twenty-six times higher.

As Stuntz tells it, the problem is the expansion of federal power and symbolic politics, at the expense of local control over criminal justice. Historically, federal authorities had little responsibility for crime since the Constitution allocated “police powers” to state and county governments. That began to change in the early twentieth century when, in the course of campaigns against “white slavery”, gambling, drugs and alcohol, federal authorities devised various means to circumvent constitutional restrictions on their powers. Racketeers like Al Capone were charged with tax offences. Prostitution became a federal offence if the women were carried across state lines. Gambling could be a federal crime because lottery tickets were sent via the US Mail. The law became a game of “bait and switch” and the federal government became a player in crime control.

Today, black crime is mostly governed by white judges and white politicians, and by the white voters who elect them

As crime became a national issue, and as the older common law was replaced by stricter statutory prohibitions, local control became attenuated and symbolic politics prevailed. And this, according to Stuntz, is at the very root of the present problems. One of his most radical claims is that neighbourhood-level democratic control of criminal justice can produce lenient, equitable and effective crime control. Foreign observers are often shocked by the politicized character of American criminal justice, and view the popular election of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs as threats to impartial justice. Stuntz takes the opposite view, insisting that the system has broken down because local people have lost control of criminal law and community juries no longer shape legal outcomes. (He has little faith in policy-making by professionals and experts, noting that their influence on American justice has been “entirely for the worse”.) In support, he presents a somewhat idealized historical account of criminal justice in northern cities in the late nineteenth century. In contrast to poor African Americans today, who remain largely excluded, working-class immigrants in the Gilded Age were integrated into local political machines, enlisted in the police forces, and served on juries, thereby making the law “more lenient, more democratic, less discriminatory, and more effective than today’s counterpart”. These same local political processes still operate. But they are no longer effective because urban law enforcement is controlled by suburban voters who have little experience of, or stake in, the realities of urban crime. “Today, black crime is mostly governed by white judges and white politicians, and by the white voters who elect them.” The result is harsh, exclusionary justice with little concern for how it affects black communities.

When political checks and balances fail, the Supreme Court is supposed to safeguard against arbitrary power and unequal treatment. So why hasn’t the Court remedied these problems? Stuntz’s answer will provoke debate in American law schools for years to come. He argues that under Chief Justice Earl Warren between 1953 and 1969, the Supreme Court made the mistake of pursuing procedural reform – which he describes (with some exaggeration) as wholly counterproductive – while shying away from the path of substantive law reform, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection”. Liberals will be outraged by this claim – for them, the Warren Court was a high point of constitutional reform. But conservatives will be aghast too, since Stuntz would have the courts intervene to promote equal protection, even though this would make for a more radically activist judiciary.

Stuntz traces how, in the years following the Civil War, the Court sought to provide former slaves with the protections that the 14th Amendment had promised. But the Court soon abandoned this pursuit, ruling in Slaughterhouse (1873), United States v Cruikshank (1876) and United States v Reese (1876) that the law should be narrowly construed in a way that refused blacks protection. The result was that Reconstruction collapsed and southern blacks were left to their fates. Eighty years later, when the Court again took up the challenge of civil rights, it relied not on the 14th Amendment but instead on an expansive reading of the Bill of Rights’ procedural guarantees. Thus Mapp v Ohio (1961) excluded from trial evidence obtained through illegal searches; Gideon v Wainwright (1963) guaranteed the right to counsel in felony cases; and Miranda v Arizona (1966) required the police to apprise suspects of their rights to counsel and against self-incrimination.

According to Stuntz, this focus on procedural propriety was a colossal error. The new rules made trials more costly, so prosecutors sought to avoid trials and secure plea bargains instead. The rules overturned convictions based on improper process, but did nothing to restrain the expansion of criminal law, the imposition of harsh punishment, or the disparate impacts of discretionary decisions. Worse still, the Court’s actions fuelled a backlash that expanded criminal liability and increased penalties. Within a few years, the pendulum had swung back and mass imprisonment was under way.

The Collapse of American Criminal Justice is a powerful indictment of the US system, and a history of its unravelling. But its author insists that a legitimate, effective criminal justice might be attained if American constitutional democracy can be properly brought to bear. Thus his Epilogue begins “Hope can be a powerful force” and proposes a series of radical reforms: Get the federal government out of criminal justice. Restore local democratic control. Develop an “equal protection” jurisprudence. Hold more jury trials. Empower judges to review guilty pleas. Increase policing. Decrease punishment. Scale back the war on drugs. Few of these proposals are well worked out, and being legal-system reforms, they don’t address the race and class politics that drive America’s penal state. But they mostly push in the right direction.

For those inclined to hope, there are signs that the era of prison expansion is coming to an end. Incarceration rates are no longer rising; cash-strapped states seek to downsize prisons. Tough-on-crime hawks such as Newt Gingrich and William Bennett now criticize the overuse of costly imprisonment. And the Supreme Court has begun to chip away at the edifice of America’s cruel and unusual system – intervening to remedy Californian prison conditions; abolishing the juvenile death penalty; hearing arguments against life-without-parole for juveniles; and ruling that defendants who choose to plea bargain retain their right to “effective assistance of counsel”.

But we should remember there has never been, in human history, a prison system the size of America’s current one. And there has never been a decarceration process that has scaled back such a massive institution. To downscale the US system to something approaching the international norm would require concerted political, legal and administrative action for decades to come, together with the popular support needed to make that viable. And therein lies the rub. Bill Stuntz believed that, with truly representative local democracy, the American people would create an effective, lenient and non-racist criminal justice. Few non-American observers would be quite so sanguine.

David Garland is Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law and Professor of Sociology at New York University. His Peculiar Institution: America’s death penalty in an age of abolition, 2010, is due to appear in paperback later this year.