JRC November 15, 2015 Newsletter

Vol. 6 #12 November 15, 2015

The More Things Change . . .

Newt Gingrich, President Obama, the Kock brothers, and Senator Chuck Grassley. These are just a few names of johnny-come-latelies in the effort to reform the sentencing structure of the American criminal justice system. We’re not going to say “we were here first”, because we weren’t. But Justice Reform Consortium has been seeking reforms since its inception in 2000. Where has everyone been?

JRC is the brainchild of the Rev. Carlos Jayne, former legislative advocate for the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Jean Basinger, an Iowa peace advocate. The two founded the consortium in 2000 by approaching several like-minded organizations that did not have the funds to hire a lobbyist for their respective organizations at the Iowa Capitol. The idea is to not have the JRC legislative advocate lobby for issues particular to an individual organization, but to join in an effort to influence legislation that is common to all the organizations.

Carlos said that JRC had a “natural connection to criminal justice and prison issues because of Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners (FIWP) and Iowa CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants)”. At the time, there was a lot of interest in sentencing reform on the part of several Judiciary Committee members in the House (Rep. Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield) and Senate (Sen. O. Gene Maddox, R-Clive). It appeared as though the time was right to work on sentencing reform, especially since the ill effects of the mid-1990s prison building experience was beginning to be noticed.

Legislators were grateful for the federal money given states to build new prisons for the exchange of enacting mandatory minimum sentences. After the prisons were built, but obviously not before, appropriations for maintaining those prisons skyrocketed. Something had to be done.

Carlos said that “we were beginning to establish credibility at meetings of the Board of Corrections and the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee meetings.” Sentencing reform was a viable alternative to the rising costs of incarceration.

JRC began with membership of four organizations as members:  Criminal Justice Ministries; Iowa CURE; Restorative Justice Advocacy; and Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners.  Criminal Justice Ministries “decided they wanted to limit their services to hospitality” and depart from JRC’s mission of seeking sensible sentencing structure.  So, JRC made internal changes to continue lobbying rather than a focus on aftercare.

Today, JRC is made up of nineteen organizations, all with an interest in criminal justice.

Monetary contributions from like-minded individuals are also accepted and greatly appreciated.  Checks may be written to “Justice Reform Consortium” and sent to: Jean Basinger, Chair

Justice Reform Consortium

c/o Trinity United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 41005

Des Moines, IA 50311

JRC publishes a newsletter biweekly throughout the Iowa Legislative Session, and periodically during the interim. Newsletters are posted on the Consortium’s website: www.justicereformconsortium.org, or you may subscribe to the newsletter by sending an email address to:

Marty Ryan  marty@iowappa.comFawkes-Lee & Ryan Public Policy Advocates


Dennis Henderson Honored

At its annual meeting of membership organizations on October 22, JRC honored Dennis Henderson for his unselfish contributions to JRC, Urban Dreams, and the Des Moines Community.  Stephanie Fawkes-Lee presented the 2015 Justice Award, and Wayne Ford accepted on Dennis’ behalf.

Dennis Henderson has lobbied at the Iowa Capitol for the past 2 years representing the issues and concerns of the Justice Reform Consortium with an insight and understanding badly needed to give legislators a more balanced environment for decision making.  He stands out at the Capitol due to his positive attitude, charisma, natural inclusiveness and calm thoughtful support.

In addition to his work at the Capitol, Dennis recognizes the importance of redirecting youth before entering the downward spiral created by carrying a criminal record. Dennis has worked with youth to keep them connected to school and developing other interests such as urban gardens.  He has also volunteered to attend out-of-state conferences for one of Justice Reform Consortium’s organizations, Iowa Coalition 4 Juvenile Justice.

Justice Reform Consortium has reaped the rewards of Dennis Henderson’s vast knowledge of how the system really works and the challenges of recidivism prevention.  He helps to keep government agencies honest and accountable.

A video of Stephanie Fawkes-Lee’s presentation and Former State Representative Ford’s remarks may be viewed here.

NEXT ISSUE: What’s ahead for the 2016 Iowa Legislative Session

Selected links:

John Oliver explains mandatory minimum sentences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDVmldTurqk&feature=iv&src_vid=USkEzLuzmZ4&annotation_id=annotation_3787281151

2015 Could be the Year for Mental Health Reform http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bobbie-brinegar/2015-could-be-the-year-fo_b_8016452.html?utm_source=August+2015+Observer&utm_campaign=Observer+December+2014&utm_medium=email Brinegar, Bobbie (Executive Director of OWL-The Voice of Women 40+). Huffington Post. AUGUST 20, 2015.

Local police are trying to convince drug dealers to turn each other in by pointing out that it reduces competition.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/us/form-for-drug-dealers-to-snitch-on-competitors-results-in-an-arrest.html KATIE ROGERS The New York Times. AUGUST 6, 2015.

Critics of Solitary Confinement Are Buoyed as Obama Embraces Their Cause.  An estimated 75,000 state and federal prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States. This is too many, President Obama argues. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/us/politics/critics-of-solitary-confinement-buoyed-as-obama-embraces-cause.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 PETER BAKER and ERICA GOODE The New York Times. JULY 21, 2015.

Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life.  A lawsuit yields insights into the psychological harms of holding prisoners in isolation for years, sometimes decades. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/health/solitary-confinement-mental-illness.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 ERICA GOODE The New York Times. AUG. 3, 2015.

Bipartisan Push Builds to Relax Sentencing Laws.  After years of resistance, Congress seems poised to revise federal policy that has greatly expanded the number of Americans who are incarcerated.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/us/push-to-scale-back-sentencing-laws-gains-momentum.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 JENNIFER STEINHAUER   The New York Times.  JULY 28, 2015.

Glare of Video Is Shifting Public’s View of Police. The recording of encounters between the police and the public has begun to alter public views of the use of force and race relations, experts and police officials say.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/us/through-lens-of-video-a-transformed-view-of-police.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS.  The New York Times. JULY 30, 2015.

Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later. When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances, William J. Lewinski often appears as an expert witness who says they had no choice but to fire.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/us/training-officers-to-shoot-first-and-he-will-answer-questions-later.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0. MATT APUZZO.  The New York Times. AUG. 1, 2015.

Please consider a generous contribution to help fund the activities of Justice Reform Consortium

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 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.


The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., November 17th 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 welcome to our November meeting Iowa State University students, Lauren Iversen and Molly Murtha who will talk about landscaping projects they are working on at the new campus of Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.  The projects include the Multipurpose Outdoor Classroom, the Decompression Area for staff, the Healing Garden for Special Needs and the Production Garden Program.


Next Month:  We welcome to the December meeting Jerry Bartruff, Director of the Department of Corrections.  Jerry was appointed Interim Director by the Governor upon the retirement of John Baldwin on January 28, 2015.  He was appointed Director on March 2, 2015 and confirmed by the Senate on April 8.

Jerry has worked in Iowa corrections for more than 32 years in various positions including:  Statewide Reentry Coordinator, Correctional Treatment Director, Treatment Services Director, Treatment Manager, Sex offender Treatment Provider, Correctional Counselor and Correctional Officer.

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

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