JRC March 22 Newsletter

Vol. 6 #6 March 22, 2015

Major Disappointment

In his 24th session of lobbying the Iowa General Assembly, Marty Ryan has seen a few bills pass out of a committee “without recommendation”. But he cannot recall any of those bills passing from the chamber, especially when three members of the majority party voted resoundingly “NO” during the committee meeting.

Last week, Senate File 448, a bill “relating to the commission of a class “A” felony by a person under eighteen years of age”, passed the Iowa Senate 47-3. This is the piece of legislation that moved from committee only after it was labeled “without recommendation”. The same three legislators who voted against the bill in committee voted against it on the floor. Please take a moment of your time to thank Senators Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant), Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines), and Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) for their opposition to SF 448.

The floor manager in the Senate, Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), proclaimed during debate: “I think this bill is constitutional.” We have doubts.

There are three major flaws we see in the legislation.

1)  The bill does not split mitigating from aggravating factors. It mixes them up and places them within the same list. In doing so, it jeopardizes the constitutionality of the bill by allowing prosecutors to present mitigating factors as though they were aggravating. The separation of factors is necessary to ensure that the sentencing judge can distinguish between the two and give proper weight to each in meting out an individualized sentence required by Miller v. Alabama.

Although Iowa does not have a death penalty, and hasn’t since the mid-1960s, death penalty statutes require the separation of mitigating and aggravating factors. The late Iowa Law Professor David C. Baldus conducted a statistical analysis that showed disparities in the imposition of capital punishment, especially in Georgia. The Court shot down the “Baldus Study”, but the case had further interest. In that case, McCleskey v. Kemp, the United States Supreme Court said that “States cannot limit the sentencer’s consideration of any relevant circumstances that could cause it to decline to impose the penalty. In this respect, the State cannot channel the sentencer’s discretion, but must allow it to consider any relevant information offered by the defendant.”

Further, Miller explicitly says that “Graham, Roper, and our individualized sentencing decisions make clear that a judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.” (Emphasis provided.)

2)  It has been 3 years since Miller has been handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, yet the Iowa Board of Parole has not followed up by amending rules that comply with the Court’s ruling. We support the ACLU of Iowa’s proposal that places language in a bill that will require the Board of Parole to draft rules accordingly.

3)  The bill includes an option for “life without the possibility of parole”. This option is very questionable, especially since all other states have shied from it. And just this past week, the Florida Supreme Court acknowledged that life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. “In light of Miller, all parties agree that Florida’s prior sentencing statute that required the imposition of a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for any offender convicted of a capital homicide offense is unconstitutional as applied to juveniles.” SC13-2000  State of Florida v. Anthony Duwayne Horsley, Jr. See NY Times article infra.

We are sincerely disappointed in the decision of the Senate leadership to advance this bill. Rita Bettis, Legal Director of the ACLU of Iowa, along with Gordy Allen, an attorney handling a few of these cases, were asked to draft an amendment to the original bill that would pass constitutional muster. They did. However, the amendment drafted by our friends was never considered.

SF 448 now goes before the House Judiciary Subcommittee consisting of Reps. Chip Baltimore – Chairperson (R-Boone), Ken Rizer (R-Cedar Rapids), and Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton). Please contact the representatives mentioned and politely ask them to fix this bill.

Wrong People at the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Rev. Michael Coleman (Waterloo), Dr. John Charlstrom (Cherokee), and Lawrence Kudej (Cedar Rapids) were invited to address the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Thursday (March 19).  All three have been reappointed by Governor Branstad to serve on the Board of Corrections (BOC).  Only Coleman and Kudej were present.

The friendly invitation became an early spring grilling event, with Coleman and Kudej as the main course. Senators shot targeted questions on the process the BOC used in determining the potential list of candidates to replace retired DOC Director John Baldwin. It seems the only postings for the job were on the website and a press release. We had written about our concerns in limiting the search internally for the open position of Director of the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) in the January 9, 2015 Justice Reform Consortium Newsletter, No Restraints in Iowa DOC. But our article now seems tame in comparison to the questions lodged at Coleman and Kudej.

The following is a synopsis of the Q&A from the meeting:

Sen. Steve Sodders: What packets did you receive from the candidates? Did you interview?

Rev. Michael Coleman: We tried to go by what the Code [of Iowa] said. We recommend those that fit the Code.

Sodders: Do you think it’s important to interview for such a large department?

Coleman: We went by our experience with those individuals that we’ve worked with.

Sen. Janet Peterson: So the pool of candidates was all internal. You didn’t go through the Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS). Who sent out the press release?

Coleman: Fred Scaletta.

Peterson: Was there discussion about doing a thorough interview?

Coleman: We followed the Code.

Peterson: Do you feel you have autonomy?

Coleman: We can’t go beyond the Code.

Sen. Julian Garrett: You had six applicants and only recommended four. Why four and not six?

Coleman: We only recommended those that met the statutory requirements.

Sodders: Who advised you on making the recommendations?

Coleman: We relied on the Department, the legal counsel, Michael Savala.

Sodders: So no one from the Department advised you?

Coleman: We relied on the Code and Michael to get the information.

Sen. Rich Taylor: Not saying that you didn’t get the best candidates, but don’t you think you should have done a nationwide search?

Coleman: We’re not disputing that, but there were deadlines given.

Lawrence Kudej: We feel that the DOC is on the cutting edge of things and didn’t believe that an outside person would do as good a job as internally.

We had attended the Board of Corrections Meeting on February 13, 2015 where a discussion took place about the director vacancy. The Rev. Michael Coleman had been coordinating the names of qualified candidates. February 12th was the deadline for application and there were 5 to 6 applicants. Coleman was ill and unable to attend the meeting, so Richard LaMere acted as the chair. It was decided that there would be three volunteer board members to review the applications to go before the board. The subcommittee would be: Rev. Michael Coleman, Richard LaMere, and Dr. Mary Chapman. They would discuss the people being considered on Friday, February 20th and the discussion included having a conference call, open meeting with call in information posted for interested attendees.

Questions were asked toward the end of the meeting. Board members wanted clarification on whether the full board consideration of candidates should be an open meeting. Michael Savala told the board that the law states the meeting is open unless the candidate requests that it be closed. Dr. John Chalstrom wanted all the candidates to be contacted about requesting a closed meeting.

Deputy Director Fred Scaletta asked the board, “Do you want to talk to each applicant? Or just forward the names to the governor?”

The board wanted to know the timeline for the process. They were told that they weren’t required to interview the candidates. They were also told that the governor can do his own search and have his own candidates.

Dr. Mary Chapman asked, “What if there aren’t any names that come out of the process? Do they reopen the process for new names?” Her questions remain unanswered.

Three candidates didn’t submit resumes. The board was told that ultimately the governor appoints and they don’t have to submit a resume. But the Board members wanted the resumes to determine if the candidates met the requirements for the position in the Iowa Code.

To speed up the process, it was determined Coleman would be contacted to request the resumes from the candidates.

A meeting did take place on February 20th, but it appears that no interviews took place. Four of the six applicants’ names were sent to the Governor. We are not sure what happened, since there wasn’t an open meeting to observe the reversal. It was clear during the discussion at the February 13th BOC meeting that Richard LaMere and Dr. Mary Chapman wanted to vet potential candidates, but according to Coleman, this didn’t take place. We don’t know why there was a timeline that seems to have excluded the possibility of a nationwide search. There is no timeline given in the Iowa Code. We also don’t know who set this timeline.

There are so many unanswered questions. And the first unanswered question should be: Were the correct people sitting in the Senate hot seat?

Bills On The Move

The following consist of a small sample of bills that are moving, and which JRC is attempting to influence the passage or defeat. We will do our best to include reasons for our support or opposition as time and space permit.

House File 158 Against

A bill for an act enhancing the criminal penalty for an assault on an operator of a motor vehicle providing transit services as part of a public transit system, and providing penalties. (Formerly HSB 30) On House Calendar. Please contact your representative and ask for a “No” vote on this bill. “The minority impact cannot be estimated but may be significant. Approximately 25.4% of offenders convicted under this Bill may be minorities. This Bill shifts a percentage of serious misdemeanor convictions to aggravated misdemeanor convictions, and a percentage of aggravated misdemeanor convictions to Class D forcible felony convictions. Enhanced penalties will result in an increased number of minority offenders supervised in the correctional system, and they will be supervised for a longer period than under current law.” (Our emphasis.)

Senate File 219 For

This bill makes small amounts of possession of marijuana (5 grams or fewer) a simple misdemeanor, compared with current law, which makes the same amount subject to a serious misdemeanor. [Simple misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65 to $625, or both; Serious misdemeanors are punishable by serving a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $315 to $1,875, or both.] This bill passed the Senate 36-13 on February 24. A Fiscal Note (with Minority Impact Statement included) has been attached to this bill. “It is expected this Bill will reduce the disproportionate impact on minorities in the criminal justice system. Offenders convicted of the offense of possessing five grams or less of marijuana will serve less time or no time under correctional supervision, compared to current law. It is more likely convicted minorities will receive a financial penalty or community service sentence, rather than correctional supervision, under the provision of this Bill.” (Our emphasis.)

House File 161 For

This is a bill relating to the authority of cities to regulate and restrict the occupancy of residential rental property.  Passed the House 73-26 on March 10. A Judiciary Subcommittee consisting of Senators Steve Sodders – Chair (D-State Center), Wally Horn (D-Cedar Rapids), and Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) has been assigned to the bill.

Senate File 385 For

A bill relating to the expungement of not-guilty verdicts and dismissed criminal-charge records. SF 385 passed the Senate on March 17 with a vote of 50-0. S.J. 613. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but has not been assigned a subcommittee at this time.

Senate File 292 and House File 589 For

Both of these bills provide for the confidentiality of certain juvenile court records. The bills are considered to be “funnel-proof”, meaning that neither bill must meet the requirements of the second funnel deadline in order to be eligible for debate for the remainder of the session. SF 292 passed the Senate unanimously (50-0) on March 18. S.J. 644.

Senate File 271 For

A bill for an act relating to interpreters for persons who are limited English proficient, deaf, deaf-blind, or hard-of-hearing in certain legal proceedings and court-order programs. It’s disgraceful that Iowa is not in compliance with the Federal Civil Rights Act. This legislation will get Iowa closer to being in compliance and free from possible federal sanctions. It passed the Senate 48-0 on March 10 and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

House File 567 Against

An act relating to controlled substances, including enhancing the penalties for imitation controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, and providing penalties. House File 567 was a pretty good bill in its infancy. That was back when it was HF 279. House File 279 allowed cities and counties to assess civil penalties on retailers that advertised or sold synthetic substances, targeted generally at adolescents. In its transformation from HF 279 to HF 567, the bill grew beyond its initial intent. Now, the bill’s target is the consumer, focusing again on more of the same failed policy that government has failed to recognize. JRC was undecided on HF 279. We cannot say the same for HF 567. We oppose it, strongly. HF 567 passed the House 83-13 on March 17. H.J. 601. “To the extent convictions occur under the provisions of the Bill, there will be a minority impact, specifically on Blacks. Blacks are about 3.3% of the Iowa population but are about 27.3% of the convictions impacted under this Bill.” It has been assigned to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee consisting of Senators Steve Sodders (D-State Center), Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), and Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant).

House File 547 Against

A bill that expands the scope of the criminal offense of interference with official acts to include jailers in the statute that allows for the arrest of an individual when the individual interferes with the duties of a correctional officer, law enforcement official, etc. (Formerly HSB 27). Please contact your representative and urge a “No” vote on this legislation. “It is expected this Bill will have a disproportionate impact on minorities because approximately 20.8% of offenders convicted under the provisions of HF 547 may be Black or American Indian.”

House File 258 Undecided, but . . .

This bill was the subject of our lead article in the most recent newsletter, Vol. 6, #5.

From Within

Some Iowa inmates have begun writing to express their ideas, thoughts, concerns, etc. We are offering them an opportunity to submit an article to our newsletter on a trial basis. We are going to print one article per month, or per issue, when available. All articles will be unedited by JRC. These inmates are tutored by Mike Cervantes of Cedar Rapids.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Justice Reform Consortium. Comments may be submitted to the author by sending them to [insight@iowappa.com]

There are no essays available for this issue.

Selected links:

The Orwellian deception of Chuck Grassley’s “leniency industrial complex” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/12/the-orwellian-deception-of-chuck-grassleys-leniency-industrial-complex/ Christopher Ingraham The Washington Post. MARCH 12, 2015.

John Legend is right: Prisons are disproportionately black. The worst states are some of the whitest. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/02/23/john-legend-is-right-prisons-are-disproportionately-black-the-worst-states-are-some-of-the-whitest/ Jeff Guo The Washington Post. FEBRUARY 23, 2015.

Florida Justices Reject 70-Year Sentence for Juvenile, Likening It to Life Term http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/us/florida-justices-reject-70-year-sentence-for-juvenile-likening-it-to-life-term.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 ERIK ECKHOLM New York Times. MARCH 20, 2015.

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8:30 AM until 4:00 PM





8:30 AM          Sign in and coffee

9:00 AM          Keynote Address – Mr. David Liners

10:00 AM        Action Panel # 1 – Keeping people out of the prison system

11:30 AM        Lunch (vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options available.)

12:15 PM        Action Panel # 2 – Creating reasonable sentencing, parole and probation policies

1: 45 PM         Action Panel # 3 – Supporting and reintegrating those returning from prison

3:15 PM          Working together statewide- creating an action network.

4:00 PM          Conference ends



David Liners is the Executive Director of WISDOM, a Wisconsin network of faith based organizations, part of the international Gamaliel Foundation.   Under his leadership, the statewide network has grown from three to eleven diverse, interfaith organizations in Wisconsin. He helps develop new models and strategies for a variety of projects. He holds a BA from Marquette University, a Masters of Divinity from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and a Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary of the Lake University. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


WISDOM aims to deepen relationships among faith based communities to empower people to address the root causes of social injustice. It encompasses 11 organizations across the state but maintains the grassroots basis for its decision-making. It is able to mobilize large numbers of people in a relatively short time around a defined and disciplined method. It has launched the 11×15 movement, which takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the prison population in Wisconsin through policy change.

“In my experience, people who have been incarcerated rarely have difficulty identifying the parallels between.. [the old Jim Crow system].. and [mass incarceration].

Once they are released, they are often denied the right to vote, excluded from juries, and relegated to a racially subordinated existence. Through a web of laws, regulations, and informal rules…powerfully reinforced by social stigma, they are confined to the margins of mainstream society and denied access to the mainstream economy.

They are legally denied the ability to obtain employment, housing, and public benefits – much as African Americans were once force into a segregated, second class citizenship by Jim Crow.”

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness


War on Drugs Task Force of Cedar Valley Citizens for Undoing Racism

Justice Reform Consortium of Iowa

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa

Iowa Unitarian Universalist Witness and Advocacy Network

Waterloo Commission on Human Rights


Registration Form

Name ________________________________

Address _________________________


E-mail ___________________________

Phone ___________________________

Do you represent an organization? ________________________________

Registration Fee

$20 if submitted prior to April 15, 2015

$25 if submitted after April 15, 2015

______Scholarship requested (must be a person with limited resources.)

Checks payable to: Waterloo Commission on Human Rights

Mail registration to:     Waterloo Commission on Human Rights,

620 Mulberry St.

Waterloo, IA 50703.

For further information contact:




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., April 21st 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


Our April speaker is John Carroll, who is responsible for DMACC Correspondence and High School completion at ICIW.  John has worked closely with Rosemary Jungmann on classes for the Friends 18 scholarship recipients this winter and spring.

John is a 1971 graduate of Loras College in Dubuque with a major in History and minor in Education, with a teaching certificate.  In 1980 John received a Masters Degree in Secondary Education Administration from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

From 1971-1979 he taught at Cromwell Children’s Unit, Mental Health Institute and was Education Program Administrator from 1980-86.  From 1986-1999 he was Distribution Manager for Showtime Party Sales (Tupperware Franchise).  He and his wife were on the President’s Council for Tupperware twice, also ranked in the Top 40 in Tupperware sales nationwide for two years.

In 2001 John became Education Program Manager for Newton Correctional Facility and ICIW, he was in that position until 2003.  From 2003-2012 he was Education Manager and Instructor at ICIW , from 2012 to the present he has been in charge of DMACC Correspondence and DMACC High School Completion.

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; Iowa-Nebraska Chapter NAACP; and Urban Dreams.

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