Memorial Day Newsletter Post

Vol. 4 #10 May 27, 2013


Session Goes Into Overtime

By now, most Iowans will know that the Iowa Legislative session is over. In an unusual format, the Senate adjourned sine die eleven hours before the House. The reason is that the Senate adjourned a minute or two after midnight. The House has a rule that no new matter may be brought up after midnight. So, the House picked up in the morning where it left off the night before. What is really weird is that the House does not hesitate to suspend rules.

We’ll have a rundown of what happened, what didn’t happen, and what should have happened in subsequent issues of the newsletter. Stay tuned!


The Board of Directors of the Iowa Department of Corrections met on the campus of the Clarinda Correctional Facility on May 3, 2013. The first order of business was the introduction of two new board members who were recently appointed by Gov. Branstad. Richard La Mere from Anamosa has a long history in law enforcement, and Rebecca Williams is a lawyer from Cedar Rapids. There are 4 Republicans on the board, 2 with no party affiliation, and one Democrat. Charles Larson, Sr. was elected chairperson, and the Rev. Michael Coleman was re-elected Vice Chairperson.

Director Baldwin reported that he was very pleased with the process used in the commutation of Raspberry Williams, stating: “It was the best piece of government I have seen in years.” Williams will probably be moved to a minimum security facility and then gradually move back into society. Three families have offered him housing.

He also reported that a group from Yemen came to learn about our state’s ICON system (Iowa Corrections Offender Network). He attended several events related to Victims’ Rights Month. He reported that the speakers were excellent.

The staff at Clarinda Correctional Facility (CCF) has been very busy with the process of moving prisoners from the Critical Care Unit (CCU) in Fort Madison to the Clarinda Facility. Several teams of CCF went to Fort Madison and introduced themselves and talked directly with the CCU prisoners, explaining their programs.* The process of moving the men began in mid-March and will finish in June, for a total of 130 men moved. There are 96 single cells and 5 levels. They want to move prisoners from single to double cells when possible to increase their ability to socialize and get along with others. They have a number of programs and their goal is to keep prisoners out of their cells and active. A tour followed the meeting and then lunch with students of the Clarinda Academy.

Jean Basinger, Justice Reform Consortium and Iowa CURE

*Editor’s note: Most prisoners were given a choice of going to CCF or the mental health unit at Iowa Medical & Classification Center (IMCC).


The Iowa Chapter of CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) is now having quarterly meetings. The first meeting was held on January 28 and was a workshop on what a person needs to know about effectively lobbying for good justice policy. It was led by Marty Ryan and Stephanie Fawkes-Lee, legislative advocates for the Justice Reform Consortium. In spite of icy roads over 20 people attended, including Rep. Chip Baltimore and Rep. Marti Anderson.

Our meeting for the spring quarter was held on April 28 and focused on “Incarcerated Veterans.” We had a panel with three members:

  • · Brian Brooks, Reentry Specialist for the Veterans Administration Central Iowa Health Care System. He said that there are many veterans’ organizations with various services. There is a veterans’ group in each of Iowa’s prisons and in addition, each county has a veterans’ affairs person who works with vets in prison. Vets lose their government benefits when going to prison and by federal law the Veterans Administration cannot do treatment in prisons. They can do assessments and referrals. Contact information: 515-277-8068, VA Central IA Health Care System, 3600 30th St., D.M, IA 50310.
  • · Randy Ball, a Viet Nam era veteran was in prison for over thirty years, his sentence was commuted and he now lives in Davenport where he has a good job and is making a life for himself. He has had help from the reentry programs of the Veterans Administration


  • · The third member of the panel was Rhonda Jordall, Executive Director of Families Alliance for Veterans of America, and support dog,” Honor.” FAVA has an unbelievable number of resources around the area of Veterans Justice Outreach and will respond to requests from prisoners, families, and the public. They are focusing on jail diversion, trauma recovery, veteran specific crisis invention and homelessness and reentry issues. Phone: 641-585-5995, P.O. Box 26, 100 N. Clark St, Forest City, IA 50436

Note: the Iowa website has been updated to include our focus group: Iowa Coalition 4 Juvenile justice. Please check it out.

The next chapter meeting will be on July 28th from 2 to 4 and will focus on Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders: one of Iowa’s best kept secrets. Please mark your calendars.

Jean Basinger, President of Iowa CURE

Selected links:

Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment[The Innocence Project]

Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment [ACLU]

Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment [The Sentencing Project]

Less Is More: Mandatory Minimum Sentences Should Be Minimized [The Weekly Standard; Apr 15, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 29 • ByELI LEHRER]

Contributions to JRC are appreciated and needed.

Please help us continue our work with your generous contribution today. Thanks!

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

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Voices to be Heardis 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 next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., June 18that Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

Our June presenter will be Kirk Nesset, gambling specialist with MECCA. We have heard rave reviews about Kirk’s class at ICIW. We are proud to announce that Kirk is the most recent addition to our Leadership Team.

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.