April 17, 2014 Newsletter

Vol. 5 #6 April 17, 2014



The Spring meeting of Iowa CURE will be held on April 27 (Sunday) at 2 P.M. at Grace

United Methodist Church, 37th and Cottage Grove in Des Moines.

Our speaker for the event will be Ruth Walker of the

Citizens for Undoing Racism-War on Drug Task Force

We will look at the need to reconsider our approach to drug policy in our state. We will look at the question of the legalization of medical marijuana, drugs laws and their impact on the over representation of African-Americans in the Iowa prison system, and what we can do to bring about positive change.

The first 40 people in attendance will receive a gift from Iowa CURE.

If you have questions contact Jean Basinger at jabwab@msn.com or 515-277-6296.

So Much for a Short Session

This is the time of the year that has everyone itching to get away from the Capitol and back into a sense of reality. We are less than one week away from April 22, the 100th day of the session. 100 days is related to the point of just about everything at the Capitol – money. According to Iowa Code Section 2.10(1), per diem expenses paid to legislators ends. The perennial question is beginning to emerge: “Can they get done before their per diem ends?” The short answer is “no”.

Justice System Appropriations Bill House File 2450

The Justice System Appropriations Bill is going to conference committee. The House and Senate have differences on most appropriations bills right now (The Judicial Branch appropriations bill appears to be an exception). The Justice System Appropriations bill, HF 2450, is one of those bills with distinct disagreement.

Both Senate and House versions appropriate “a total of $554.4 million from the General Fund for FY 2015 to the Departments of Justice, Corrections, Inspections and Appeals, Public Defense, Human Rights, Public Safety, and Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Board of Parole, and Civil Rights Commission”. That round number has been cast in stone and both chambers agree on spending a half-billion dollars for those listed agencies. However, divvying up the money to those separate entities is where the disagreement begins. Below are the major differences between the House and Senate versions of HF 2450 based upon the most recent NOBAs[1] (Note On Bills and Amendments) published by the non-partisan Fiscal Division of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency.

For the Department of Justice (Attorney General), the House proposes a “General Fund decrease of $178,000 compared to estimated FY 2014 due to: $397,000 decrease to eliminate FY 2014 one-time transition costs associated with the redesign of victim services at the local level for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault”. On the other side of the rotunda, the Senate is appropriating a “General Fund increase of $394,000 compared to estimated FY 2014 due to: $175,000 increase to fill 2.00 vacant, unfunded FTE positions (Attorneys) in the Office of the Attorney General”.

For the Department of Corrections, the House has appropriated a “General Fund increase of $1.0 million compared to estimated FY 2014” and the Senate, is appropriating a “General Fund increase of $3.7 million compared to estimated FY 2014”.

The Senate is appropriating a “$1.2 million increase to replace expired federal funds for Drug Courts in the First and Sixth CBC District Departments, and to fund Drug Courts in the Second, Fifth, and Seventh CBC District Departments.” The House is okay with allowing a paltry “$317,000 increase to replace expired federal funds for Drug Courts in the First and Sixth CBC District Departments”, but nothing for the Second, Fifth, and Seventh CBC District Departments.

Perhaps the largest gap exists between the Senate and House as it pertains to new FTEs (Full Time Equivalents). The Senate is proposing to increase the IDOC budget by “$1.8 million to add 33.0 correctional officers at the nine Institutions. Meanwhile, the House has elected instead to increase the budget of the Department of Public Safety by $5.7 million and propose 25.0 FTE positions, mostly in the form of new state troopers. The Senate has also provided money for new troopers, but the funding provides for fewer troopers.

The information above is subject to change instantly. It does, nonetheless, give an example of what is taking place at the Capitol. All major budget bills are going through the same negotiating process at this time. The short session that was predicted back in January will be a thing of the past on April 22. And it’s our prediction that this session will go beyond that date.

A special thanks to Beth Lenstra of the non-partisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency – Fiscal Division for assuring us that the numbers above are accurate (at least they were when she looked at them a few days ago).

Looking for a [small] Handout

Last February, Justice Reform Consortium highlighted SF 2199, a bill “that would help pay the costs for interpreters and translators in civil and criminal cases before Iowa courts.” That bill would have been a tremendous help to those recent immigrants to our state. As Basu points out:

It’s not just the inability of parents to communicate with teachers, or pick kids up or help them study. It’s someone being prematurely cut off food stamps because the paperwork wasn’t done due to language barriers. It’s the child who missed two years of schooling because the mother didn’t know to enroll her. The man who couldn’t read his eviction notice until a week before he had to move with the 14 people sharing his one-bedroom apartment. It’s the untouched FIP benefits debit card loaded with $900 that someone didn’t know what to do with, even as she fell behind on rent.

A Fiscal Note on SF 2199 indicates the low cost of this program (compared to what Iowa gets for other investments). Yet, support in the House was way beyond weak.

More proof of the necessity for Iowa courts to provide interpreter services free of cost. Courts determine the statutory and constitutional rights and obligations of litigants. A court decision can have serious consequences for litigants, which reinforces the necessity for providing competent interpreter services to limited English proficient participants–like the Burma refugees mentioned in this article.

A liaison for the Courts wrote that “[o]ne should not be discriminated against in our great state because of their nationality–it is a shame that we are unable to fully administer justice under the law equally to all citizens of Iowa because we are unwilling to fund interpreter services for those Iowans with limited proficiency in the English language.”

We’re hoping that legislators can find the money to fund this program in at least one of the remaining budget bills.

Selected links:

Here’s Why It’s ‘Counterproductive’ To Put Juveniles On The Sex Offender Registry


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Jean Basinger

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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 next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., April 15th 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.

FIWP Mailing Address: Post Office Box 71272, Clive, IA 50325

We are in for a rare and special treat in May (Tuesday, May 20). The staff from Unit 9, the treatment unit at ICIW, will be our guests. The treatment unit has four pods each with approximately 48 women: one pod for Pre-treatment to help women achieve a mind-set open to treatment, 9 month (STAR — Sisters Together Achieving Recovery) and 6 month (WISH – Women Inspiring Sobriety Health) treatment programs and Aftercare, where women serve as mentors to those going through treatment. The staff will share with us their role in helping women achieve success.

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


Justice Reform Consortium member organizations: 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.

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[1] https://www.legis.iowa.gov/publications/information/appropriationBillAnalysis