August/September Newsletter

Vol. 5 #11 September 9, 2014

IDOC Phone Rates

Here in Iowa, the Office of the Ombudsman has expressed concern regarding the proposed phones rates being put forward by the Iowa Department of Corrections. Members of the Ombudsman’s staff attended the July 11 meeting of the Iowa Department of Corrections and presented a number of documents in support of their concerns. In a cover letter, they expressed concern about telephone rates that are charged to offenders above and beyond the cost of providing the service, and being used to pay salaries and benefits with telephone fees.

It should be noted that, although Board meetings are open to the public, until recently the public could not comment without getting prior approval from the chairperson. We were able to convince the IDOC staff that there should be a time for public comment. This has been added at the very end of the Board agenda. This means that the public cannot give input until after the Board has made their decisions.

On August 8, the Iowa Board of Corrections held the first of their budget meetings. Ruth Cooperrider, who is the State Ombudsman, asked that she be allowed to speak before the introduction of two action items regarding the phone rates. She was given permission to do so. She presented a one-page handout which outlined the information about the current phone rates, a proposal made at the July meeting of the Board, and the DOC Proposal now being presented for approval by the Board. This is as follows:

“$3.15 flat rate for all calls, (including international) from 1 to 20 minutes in length.”

The recommendation by the Ombudsman’s Office is that rates be just, reasonable, and fair, and that they consider the framework created by the FCC, including the implementation of a cost-based system. Under the DOC proposal, the cost of a local call would go from $2.00 to $3.15. This would have a significant impact on prisoners and their families as local calls account for 58% of offender minutes. After many years of urging the Department to reduce phone rates, families took matters into their own hands and began to buy cell phones and get a local phone number in the area where their family member was incarcerated. Thus, a call to their loved one is only $2. The IDOC has been quite angry about this development, as this had a significant impact on the profits on phone calls.

The second item being presented by the DOC for approval by the board is “Telephone Rebate Expenditures for FY 2015”. The total amount of “rebates”, or profits from the phone system is $413,813. This includes an expenditure of $350,000 for Education Funding, $62,813, and $1000 for Translation Services.

For many years, Iowa CURE and International CURE have recommended a revenue-neutral phone system. We do not understand why the prisoners and families and friends who use the inmate telephone system should pay for the cost of education services for prisoners, or why they should pay the cost of operating the system.

The two action items were presented to the Board for approval and they voted to table both items until they could get more information.

Director Baldwin appeared to be very angry and expressed that by saying that 5 or 6 times staff from the Ombudsman’s office have come to IDOC meetings, passed out information to the board, which has not been reviewed by the department and asked to speak. He stated that they do try to give opportunities for family connections with their loved ones in prison and gave the “O” mail system as an example. Fred Scaletta, Deputy Warden for Public Relations, spoke of the requirement that all revenues must be used to benefit prisoners as justification for the rates. He also noted that a number of organizations are appealing the ruling by the Federal Communication Commission.

From notes taken at Board meeting by Jean Basinger, President of Iowa CURE

Incarcerated in Iowa

The University of Iowa and Iowa Department of Corrections paired up last Saturday (Sept. 6th) in Iowa City to conduct a symposium on being “Incarcerated in Iowa” at the University Conference Center (in Old Capitol Mall). Please visit the website at your convenience to catch the recorded morning events as soon as they are posted.

A reported account of the day’s activities can be found in the Monday edition of The Daily Iowan (see links below).

Selected links: UI Prison Projects Coalition stages symposium. McAndrew, Mitch. The Daily Iowan. SEPTEMBER 8, 2014. Nuns have deep pockets? An Invisible Cloak of Love. Martin, Lisa. Congregation of the Humility of Mary. AUGUST 22, 2014. California Revises Policy on Mentally Ill Inmates. Goode, Erica. New York Times. AUGUST 12, 2014. NSA search engine ICREACH passes a staggering amount of data to domestic law enforcement. ICReach.

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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., September 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

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.


Developing Brain,

Developing Accountability:

Using Science to Direct Our Policy and Practice for Educating, Disciplining and Growing Our Children into Accountable Adults

September 29, 2014

Registration begins: 8:00 a.m. Conference concludes: 3:30 p.m.

The conference will be moving to the Community Choice Ballroom in the Iowa Events Center on the same date and time – Monday, September 29 from 9 am – 3:30 pm.

Iowa Events Center (Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center)

730 Third Street

Ballroom B – 4th level of Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center

Des Moines, IA 50309

Parking is available north of the Iowa Events Center with entrances off the following streets: Third, Fifth and Crocker. Iowa Events Center surface lots offer the closest and most convenient access to the facility, and easy access to I-235 and other major routes after the event. ADA accessible parking is available at the Iowa Events Center by entering the lot south of Crocker Street, next to Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. The cost is $7. A map, directions, and information regarding parking can be found here.

The Brain Science is Clear

The youth brain is uniquely different than that of an adult. That reality has profound implications for how we educate, discipline and nurture our children in our schools, justice system and our community.

This conference will feature a series of brief, dynamic and interactive presentations from some of the leading experts in the field on this important topic. Learn what’s happening locally and, most important, learn what you can do to create a safe community where every child counts!

For more information, contact: Des Moines University, CME Lana Herteen, Blank Children’s Hospital (515) 271-1596 (515) 241-6726

To Register: Fee: $20; students free. Lunch provided. CEUs/CMEs pending.


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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