January 31, 2016 JRC Newsletter

Vol. 7 #2 January 31, 2016

IOWA CAUCUS EVE

Animal Farm Returns to the Capitol

Some people just don’t get it.  Some do.

A subcommittee meeting on House File 2020, a bill “enhancing the penalty for certain assaults against a sports official”, adjourned without the members of the subcommittee approving the bill for further consideration.  During the meeting, eight high school students from Estherville High School observed the process of legislators and lobbyists vetting the bill.

After the bill failed to pass out of the subcommittee, JRC Legislative Advocate Marty Ryan asked if any of the students had read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Every one of them had read it and enjoyed it.  Ryan had compared these types of bills to a quote from the book:  “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Estherville students readily grasp this concept, but it seems like some organizations and the members that belong to them cannot apprehend this picture.

A week earlier, in the chamber across the rotunda, another subcommittee meeting was held on a bill, Senate Study Bill 3007, an act “relating to the criminal offense of interference with official acts at county jails, municipal holding facilities, and judicial district departments of correctional services, and providing penalties.”

SSB 3007 does not address the matter of assault, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the testimony in the room.  Examples were being brought up in which jailers were assaulted, and threatened to be assaulted.  These examples are NOT what should constitute the crime of interference with official acts.  They are assaults and should be treated like assaults.  And jailers are already included in the list of occupations in which a person assaulting the official will receive an enhanced penalty.  [Iowa Code Section 708.3A]

These “Animal Farm” bills are always afflicted with the accompanying words “protected”, “protections”, or “protects”.  This bill and others like it protect no one.  If an athlete or spectator is going to assault a sports official, the act will be committed regardless of the law.  This assumption that a law will protect a person against an assault is pure conjecture.  There exists no empirical evidence that enhanced penalties will prevent one person from assaulting another.  Nor is there any sort of evidence that the penalty involved in an assault will protect anyone.

Interference with official acts is a “he said, she said” incident.  Many jailers are not law enforcement officers and have no authority to issue a citation to an inmate in a jail.  An investigating officer is going to weigh the testimony of a jailer so far above that of a defendant that the scales of justice will fall off the shelf.  Trust us on this one.

In the past 20 years, the list of occupations that are referenced in Section 708.3A[1] has grown exponentially.  The House subcommittee panel did the right thing.

HF 2020 and SSB 3007 epitomize the vanishing promise of equality related to us in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Equality is a relationship between man and man. It’s one of mankind’s ultimate ideals. In an equal society, there is no division of classes, wealth or power. This was the predominant goal of the Russian Revolution as well as the animal revolution in the story Animal Farms (sic). The thought of having an equal society is admirable, though it’s only a fantasy. In the story Animal Farms (sic), 7 commandments were established soon after the fleeing of Mr. Jones, with the 7th- all animals are equal, being the most important. Later on, bit by bit, the 7 commandments were soon deformed, and the equality which the commandments promised and protected perished.

http://apeliterature.weebly.com/animal-farm—george-orwell-equality.html

Adding certain occupations to a Code section that has yet to prove anything beyond Orwell’s prediction that everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others, will lead to other members of certain other occupations seeking the same fantasy – that this law will protect them.

After sports officials, who’s next?  Coaches?  Cheerleaders?  Mascots?  Representatives in the House don’t want to go there.  Extending the law of interference with official acts to jailers is a push off the slippery slope.  Senators need to be cautious.  Jailers have to deal with drunks, the mentally ill and obnoxious citizens who think they know someone special who will come to their aid.

We admire the tolerance and patience of jailers.  Hopefully, they will continue their professionalism and receive the respect all of us have to offer, without want of more legislation that will surely keep the rough inmates from spending more time under their authority.

[1] 708.3A  Assaults on persons engaged in certain occupations.

  1. A person who commits an assault, as defined in section 708.1, against a peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter, whether paid or volunteer, with the knowledge that the person against whom the assault is committed is a peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter and with the intent to inflict a serious injury upon the peace officer, jailer, correctional staff, member or employee of the board of parole, health care provider, employee of the department of human services, employee of the department of revenue, or fire fighter, is guilty of a class “D” felony.

A Different Kind Of Drug War

There has been an ongoing turf war going on at the Iowa Capitol between psychologists wanting to be educated and trained in order to prescribe psychotropic medication and the various entities within the medical community who fear this change.  As with any war, there is collateral damage, and in this case it is those dealing with limited and affordable services for mental illness.  Legislators demonstrated frustration that the stakeholders, who had been instructed to meet during the interim to seek a solution, failed to do so.

Justice Reform Consortium is monitoring this issue, although we are very supportive of any effort to meet the needs of the mentally ill in the community instead of in a correctional setting.  After all, carrying a criminal record isn’t conducive to mental health. Nonetheless, during the subcommittee meeting, a doctor who works within the correctional setting was lobbying passionately against giving prescriptive authority to psychologists, touting the positives of treating the mentally ill in prisons.

Those registered against this legislation (House Study Bill 503) include:  Iowa Psychiatric Society; Iowa Medical Society; Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association; Iowa Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics; Iowa Academy of Family Physicians; Polk County Medical Society.

Those that support this legislation: Iowa Psychological Association; Iowa Primary Care Association; Iowa Behavioral Health Association; Epilepsy Foundation; Iowa Annual Conference of United Methodist Church; Easter Seals Iowa; Polk County – Board of Supervisors; Iowa State Association of Counties.  The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) supports this initiative, but is not registered on the bill.  There are a host of others registered as undecided.

History of the prescribing psychologists’ movement

“The movement to grant psychologists the right to prescribe psychotropic medication took root in the late 1960s when the APA identified psychopharmacology as a discipline of psychology.

  • 1991-1997: The Department of Defense begins a six-year trial program to train 10 psychologists to prescribe medication at assigned military bases. The program was successful, demonstrating that psychologists can be taught to prescribe safely. Some of the psychologists are still prescribing and appropriately trained psychologists may now be credentialed to prescribe in the Defense Department, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Indian Health Service.
  • 2002: New Mexico becomes the first state to enact a law allowing appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications.
  • 2004: Louisiana passes legislation providing prescribing rights to psychologists.
  • 2014: Illinois enacts legislation granting prescriptive authority to licensed psychologists with additional specialized training in psychopharmacology.
  • The need is great and the evidence is clear: Allowing prescribing rights for psychologists is an essential step to providing thousands of patients with access to comprehensive mental health care.”

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The Senate is churning bills out faster than an automobile assembly line.  The House has been more selective and deliberate.  The following consists of two bills that are on the move:

Senate File 84 – A bill leftover from last year, this is a version of “Ban the Box”.  JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill.  A subcommittee meeting on the bill was held on Tuesday, Jan. 19.  Subcommittee members are:  Senators Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), Chair; Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant); and Julian Garrett (R-Indianola).  The bill may come up for consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee at any time.

Senate Study Bill 3057 AND House Study Bill 536 – These two companion bills enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles.  This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed.  Both bills have been reviewed by subcommittees and are expected to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Public Safety Committee.

It may be difficult to think of a prisoner as a victim, but there is no such thing as consensual sex in a correctional setting.

It is important to note that consent is never a legal defense for corrections staff who engage in sexual acts with inmates. According to federal law, all sexual relations between staff and inmates are considered abuse. Even if a sexual act would have been considered consensual if it occurred outside of a prison, by statute it is criminal sexual abuse when it occurs inside a prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 2243 (c).

https://oig.justice.gov/special/0504/

Iowa’s law prohibiting sex between a person in a position of authority and a person who is incarcerated or on parole or probation is weak.

Sexual misconduct by prison and jail employees, vendors, volunteers, etc. “compromises facility security and creates work environments that are negative for both staff and inmates.  Allegations are disquieting and divisive for employees and the public.” Policy Development Guide for Sheriffs and Jail Administrators. August, 2002.   https://s3.amazonaws.com/static.nicic.gov/Library/017925.pdf

Section 709.16 addresses prohibition and the criminal penalty of sexual misconduct with an offender.  In Iowa, that penalty is an aggravated misdemeanor.  In most other states, this penalty is a felony[1].  Increasing the penalty to a class “D” felony will align Iowa with the majority of states and should prove to be an effective deterrent[2].

The bill also enhances the penalty from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class “D” felony in a juvenile placement facility.

The punishment should fit the crime, and in this case, enhancing the penalty is appropriate.

[1] https://www.wcl.american.edu/endsilence/documents/50StateSurvey-SSMLAWS2013Update.pdf

[2] On March 25, 2011, Megan Elizabeth Cecil, 32, a former Department of Correctional Services residential officer, was sentenced to two years probation on two counts of sexual misconduct and required to register as a sex offender. She had been charged with having sex with a male prisoner at the Burlington Men’s Residential Facility four times in March 2010. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.50]. According to court records, former Dallas County jailer Kevin Paul Hines, 60, pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with an offender and was sentenced on June 10, 2011 to two years; he was also ordered to register as a sex offender and pay $1,599.02 in restitution. Hines had been arrested in 2009 for raping prisoner Tamera Poeschl three times in a temporary jail cell.

And several more examples.

Selected links:

Obama Bans Solitary Confinement of Juveniles in Federal Prisons  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/obama-bans-solitary-confinement-of-juveniles-in-federal-prisons.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0  Michael D. Shear.  The New York Times, JAN. 25, 2016

Justices Expand Parole Rights for Juveniles Sentenced to Life for Murder  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/us/politics/justices-expand-parole-rights-for-juveniles-sentenced-to-life-for-murder.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 ADAM LIPTAK.  The New York Times, JAN. 25, 2016.

Massachusetts Chief’s Tack in Drug War: Steer Addicts to Rehab, Not Jail  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/us/massachusetts-chiefs-tack-in-drug-war-steer-addicts-to-rehab-not-jail.html?partner=rss&emc=rss KATHARINE Q. SEELYE  The New York Times, JAN. 24, 2016

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

The next program meeting of Iowa CURE will be February 21 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, corner of 8th and College, 1548 8th St. in Des Moines.  Our speaker will be Dr. Jerome Greenfield, the newly appointed mental health director for the Iowa Department of Corrections.  He will speak about the work he is doing in his new position.  Dr. Greenfield practiced psychiatry in the Des Moines area for many years and is highly respected for his work.

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Fort Dodge will host meeting on Iowa’s Criminal Justice System

The Bioscience and Health Sciences Building on the Iowa Central Community College Campus is the location of what Rep. Helen Miller (D-Fort Dodge) calls a “mini criminal justice reform gathering”.

The “mini-conference” will begin at 9 am on Saturday, February 20.  Please mark your calendar.

Issues to be discussed on the 20th will include (but not necessarily be limited to):  the rights of Iowans who have committed felonies (or perhaps the lack of those rights); racial disparities in sentencing schemes; and the process of regaining citizenship.

For more information contact:  Rep. Helen Miller (D-Fort Dodge) 515/570-3535 or helenmiller49@yahoo.com   www.facebook.com/helen .miller.49

We will have updated information in the next JRC Newsletter.

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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.

Voices to be Heard has formed also in Cedar Rapids.  We hope to have more information on the Cedar Rapids meetings in subsequent newsletters.  Meanwhile, contact:  Voices to be Heard, Voices.Heard@yahoo.com. Sue Hutchins, 252 S. 22nd St., Marion, IA 52302.

The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., February 16th 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.

FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

UPCOMING PROGRAM

We welcome Katrina Carter, Assistant Deputy Director-Offender Services, Iowa Department of Corrections.  Katrina will speak with us about the new treatment program that will replace STAR (Sisters Together Achieving Recovery).

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.