September 13 Newsletter Available

Vol. 4 #13 September 13, 2013

Photo Exhibit

Many of you will remember the marvelous photos of children with incarcerated parents by local photographer Ben Easter which were featured in the May, June, and July issue of DSM magazine. This month, Ben will have a unique photo and video installation of these children’s picture at the Old Polk County Jail at 110 6th Ave., Des Moines.

The dates and times are as follows: Sept. 14: 10 am to 7 pm; Sept. 15: Noon to 5 pm; Sept. 20: 7 to 9 pm, Sept. 21; 10 am to 7pm; and Sept. 22: Noon to 5 pm.

The Exhibit is the result of a collaboration between Easter, Jolene Praff and Joy DeSomber who compiled the stories of children with incarcerated parents in a book for children called, “What Did I Do?”

Please check the website: for more details.



The following is information taken from a Preliminary Report from the U.S. Department of Justice as published in a document provided by the Iowa Legislative Services Agency – Fiscal Division. Some interesting facts and numbers may be of interest to JRC Newsletter readers.

“The report says that the number of state prisoners has declined for the third year in a row and this represents a shift in the direction of incarceration over the last 30 years. State prison populations grew every year between 1978 (307,276 prisoners held in all state prisons) to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009.

“The estimated state prison population at year-end 2012 is 1,353,198. This is a 2.1% decrease compared to year-end 2011.”

Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project has suggested that a number of factors have caused this decline. Mauer has said: “Various states are using alternatives to sending individuals to prison, and states also are dropping unnecessary prosecutions. In addition, states are sentencing fewer individuals to prison in order to balance their budgets.” The good news is always welcome, but we must continue to question the inequity of having a huge percentage of the prison population consisting of Black men. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, summed it up on MSNBC last July when he commented on President Obama’s remarks “about the realities of racial discrimination. “But we, of course, still have a ways to go. And we should use this moment not to talk at each other, but to talk with each other.”

Jeffries pointed out that a particular focus of the discussion should be “the unequal rate at which black men are entangled in the criminal justice system. ‘We acknowledge the problem of black on black violence,’ said Jeffries, ‘…But we also have to acknowledge that African-Americans are more likely to be charged, arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced for the same crime in a way that other communities aren’t treated.’”

Recent DOC Board Report

The Iowa Board of Corrections recently met in the Iowa Prison Industries Showroom on East Grand Avenue in Des Moines on Friday, September 13. Three major pieces of discussion and action included the Department of Corrections Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal; proposed legislation for the upcoming session; and approval by the Board to allow use of stun guns in certain circumstances by Community-Based Correctional officers.

The Board approved a department-wide (includes Community-Based Correctional Districts) budget proposal that seeks a 3.43% increase. Legislative proposals include: 1) a bill that would remove the right of an inmate to receive a second opinion from “a licensed physician of the respondent’s own choice” when the offender is being involuntarily hospitalized under Iowa Code Chapter 229 [Hospitalization Of Persons With Mental Illness]; a measure that will exclude lifers from paying into an interest-bearing savings program that will provide the inmate with $100 that is given to the inmate upon discharge; and, 3) a bill that will enhance the penalty of the crime of sexual misconduct by a DOC staff person, vendor, CBC staff person, volunteer, etc., with an offender from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class “D” felony.

The Board approved a policy that will allow Warrant Teams within a CBC to use stun guns when appropriate. This brings up an interesting dilemma. JRC sees the contradiction in policies as it pertains to pregnancies. When a bill (SF 134) was brought forward that would prohibit the use of restraints on a pregnant inmate or detainee, law enforcement representatives continuously argued that they cannot determine when a woman is or is not pregnant and that the bill should fail because it would be too difficult to make that determination. Now, on the other hand, Warrant Teams (consisting of some of those same officials) claim that they will not use Tasers and other electroshock weapons on pregnant women. The double standard irony is getting tiresome.

In other matters before the Board, a heavily-redacted policy on “Standards For Firearms And Munition” was given to the Board; the Board of Parole presented a demonstration of its new Real-Time computer deployment; and Director Baldwin gave a report that included mention of the grand opening at the new Mitchellville and Fort Madison facilities, and some details of a meeting between certain department heads that dealt with the problem of sex offenders who are in need of extensive elder care but with no place to go.

Selected links:

The Summer edition of the International CURE Newsletter is now available. To get the Newsletter, please go to Summer 2013 p 1-5.pdf

From the New York Times: Justice Dept. Seeks to Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences

From the New York Times: Two Powerful Signals of a Major Shift on Crime

Fiscal Topics: Iowa Legislative Services Agency. Budget Unit: Community-Based Corrections

From the New York Times: Race Equality Is Still a Work In Progress, Survey Finds

Iowa Legislative Services Agency (Fiscal Division) Fiscal Topics: Budget Unit: Adult Correctional Institutions

Iowa Legislative Services Agency (Fiscal Division): Budget Unit – Iowa Board of Parole

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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 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 September 17th guest speaker will be Katrina Carter, IDOC Offender Services.


The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., Sept. 17h at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th.

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.


To our September meeting we welcome Julie Bardin, Intake/Case Manager at the Beacon of Life. Julie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University. She has been in the human service field for 7 years. She is also on the Polk County Housing Continuum Stepping Stones which is the Beacon’s program for graduates. Currently she is revamping their Women’s Health Curriculum.

Julie will be telling us about the current program at the Beacon, their goals for the future and their resale store, “Found Treasures” in Valley Junction.


In October our presenter will be Paul Stageberg, Administrator of the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning. He has spent most of his professional career analyzing the operation of criminal justice system, primarily in state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs). He has served on the Board of the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) as an at-large member, Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President, and President. His interest in corrections research has led to the publication of numerous reports related to corrections and parole. He received his AB from Dartmouth College and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Justice System Administration from the SUNY-Albany.


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

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