First JRC Newsletter of 2017

Vol. 8 #1 January 8, 2017

2017 Legislature

Justice Reform Consortium identified its priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session before the November election.  It’s always been this way.  The election has rarely made a difference on our priorities, and we didn’t see this year as anything different.  Reviewing our priorities and watch list, we continue to see the glass as half-full, just as it has been in the past.

Below is a categorized list of issues that JRC intends to face during the 2017 session of the Eighty-Seventh Iowa General Assembly.  Some may be pursued by legislators in majority; others will fall by the wayside or get caught up in the Legislature’s funnel process.  Nonetheless, JRC is preparing for all issues listed below.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

MINORITY IMPACTS

Transit Assault:  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.  A Minority Impact Statement (within a Fiscal Note from a previous year) claims:

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 under current law.

JRC OPPOSED this bill in the past, and has strongly opposed the concept for many years.  We anticipate the bill will be introduced again this year.  We will continue to oppose any efforts to make this concept law (See Occupational Assault below under ENHANCED PENALTIES).

Risk Assessments; A trend in sentencing is to look at an offender’s past to determine if the offender is a risk to reoffend.  The preferred sentencing structure is to sentence the defendant based upon the crime for which the defendant committed, not based upon what a person may or may not do at some future date.  JRC OPPOSED in the past.  Requires that a validated risk assessment be part of a presentence investigative report.  JRC believes that risk assessments are biased against people of color, and an in-depth article with factual data proves it:  https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

We believe several government entities will try to expand the use of risk assessments during the 2017 session.

ENHANCED PENALTIES

Interlock devices: “Current law allows a first-time operating-while-intoxicated (OWI) offender to operate a motor vehicle with a temporary restricted driver’s license, but without an ignition interlock device, where, during the offense, the offender’s alcohol concentration was .10 or below and the offender did not cause an accident. An effort by Rep. Sandy Salmon eliminates this provision. A bill in the past provides “that a first-time OWI offender with a temporary restricted driver’s license shall install an ignition interlock device in the offender’s vehicle, whether the offender’s driver’s license revocation was the result of sentencing, deferred judgment, or administrative revocation, and regardless of the offender’s alcohol concentration at the time of the offense.”  Explanation of past bill.

The requirement of installing an ignition interlock device is expensive and restrictive.  In that way, it is considered by JRC to be a penalty enhancement.  JRC opposes penalty enhancements when there is a lack of empirical evidence that proves the increase in a penalty is warranted.  In this matter, the impetus for the bill was based on emotion.  During the previous General Assembly, a subcommittee meeting was held on the bill where a legislator showed a picture of a child who was killed by an impaired driver.  There were not enough subcommittee members willing to sign the bill for it to move out of subcommittee and be placed before the House Judicial Committee for its consideration.

JRC OPPOSED this bill in the past, and Rep. Salmon has written in her newsletter that she will introduce it again this year.

Death Penalty:  Creating the penalty of death for the commission of the multiple offense of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, and sexual abuse against the same minor, providing a penalty.  This bill is reinstating the death penalty in Iowa.  JRC has always OPPOSED.  We expect a Death Penalty bill to be introduced in response to police killings throughout the country.

Occupational Assault:  Each year, a bill is introduced to enhance the penalty for assault against a particular occupation.  For instance, the Transit Assault mentioned earlier.  Many of these bills are “special interest” constituent bills relating to sports officials, bus drivers, etc.  JRC has always OPPOSED these “Animal Farm” bills.

First, these types of 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 the 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.

In the past 20 years, the list of occupations that are referenced in Section 708.3A has grown exponentially.  Before another occupation is added to the list of those already inducted into the piecemealed section, a study needs to be completed to discover the effect of those inclusions.  How many parole board employees and officials have been assaulted since parole board member or employee was added?  And how may parole board employees or officials were assaulted in the same amount of time before the position was added to the list of so-called protected occupations?  Has the inclusion of employees of the “Department of Revenue” and “Department of Human Services” decreased the assaults upon these employees?  Researching these questions, and similar inquiries will disclose the effectiveness of these additions, and will provide insight into whether the entire section should be maintained, enhanced, or discontinued.

How many people charged with violations of Section 708.3A, the predecessor to proposed Section 708.2D, have actually been convicted of the crime; and how many have pled down to simple assault?  There are too many questions that need answered before advancing this legislation.

Second, this legislation epitomizes the vanishing promise of equality related to us in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Equality is a relationship between man and man. . .. 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 – this law will protect them.  Eventually, most occupations will be included in this law, and it will become a dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.  The result of years and years of moving other occupations into this Code section will have a name.  It will be called totalitarian control.

Blue Lives Matter:  JRC believes that everything in this nationwide measure is currently in Iowa Code.  We do expect this issue to be introduced and to move through the process.  We will look at the legislation closely to see if it is repetitious or necessary.

So-called “Emmalee’s Law” – modifying hit-and-run laws.  This anticipated legislation is the result of an incident that happened in Ames.  A student was struck by a bus and the driver did not come forward with information, immediately.  JRC will likely OPPOSE.

SENTENCING REFORM

Mandatory Minimums – Justice Reform Consortium has always OPPOSED the creation and expansion of more mandatory minimum sentences.  The elimination or reduction of mandatory minimum statutes must be taken seriously.  Often, reducing the sentence of one crime leads to the expansion or creation of a new law.  JRC will monitor carefully.

CRIME/PUNISHMENT

CO/Inmate Relationships:  Bills relating to the criminal elements and penalties for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED, and actually requested this bill last year.  This legislation was a priority issue for JRC.  It is one of those times the JRC supports the enhancement of a criminal penalty.  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. 

 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.

DUE PROCESS

Home Occupancy:  Restricting authority of cities to regulate and restrict the occupancy of residential rental property.  Currently, several cities in Iowa have ordinances that restrict how many unrelated people can live in a one-family dwelling. This bill would prohibit such ordinances. JRC SUPPORTS this legislation because many people released from prison need a safe place to live. Ordinances that prohibit habitation based upon kinship are outdated and discriminatory. After all, why should the [local] government know “who” lives in your home and how they are or are not related to each other?  JRC has knowledge of this bill being introduced again, most likely with different language

Tax Collecting: An Act relating to the vehicle registration duties of county treasurers.  JRC OPPOSED this legislation over the past 2-3 years.  This bill allows county treasurers to collect a fee of $5 when collecting delinquent parking fines for a city or county.  The delinquent fines must be paid before issuing a vehicle registration.  This is part of the treasurers’ job and should not be an added tax for citizens.  Some counties are refusing to collect if they do not receive the $5 fee assessed to violators.

Interpreters and Translators:  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-ordered programs.  Currently, Iowa is not in compliance with federal law.  JRC SUPPORTED every year the courts have tried to move this.  We are not aware of the courts trying again, but if they do, we will be their ally.

24/7 Monitoring:  Certain counties in Iowa want a bill for an act providing for the establishment of county chemical substance abuse monitoring pilot programs and modifying temporary restricted license eligibility requirements for operating-while-intoxicated offenders.  This is known as the 24/7 monitoring program.  JRC has OPPOSED this legislation.  The Des Moines Register is lobbying the issue through articles and editorials.  JRC has serious concerns about the program and its selective use.

Risk Assessments:  An Act relating to domestic abuse and other offenses involving a domestic relationship, and providing penalties.  JRC OPPOSED this legislation in 2016.  The penalty relies heavily upon risk assessments in sentencing.  JRC believes that risk assessment usage in the sentencing process contains grave constitutional violations.

EQUALITY

Racial Profiling:  Legislation relating to law enforcement profiling by standardizing the collection and centralizing the compilation and reporting of officer stop and complaint data, providing for officer training, creating a community policing advisory board, providing for penalties and remedies, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED the bill requested by the NAACP, which was introduced in 2016.  We will support future attempts by the NAACP to advance this legislation.

Jury Lists:  Legislation requiring the master list for juror service to be updated using an electronic data processing system annually and eliminating jury commissions.  This was an issue that was recommended by the Governor’s Working Group on Justice Policy Reform.  JRC SUPPORTED the bill introduced in 2016.

Distracted Driving:  Changing the criteria for pulling someone over for texting/emailing while driving from the current secondary offense to one of making it a primary offense.  Our fear upon enactment is the possibility of it being a pretextual stop in the process of racial profiling.

WAR ON DRUGS

 Marijuana Possession:  Possession of marijuana is an issue that JRC has SUPPORTED in the past.  However, the specifics of a particular law bill may dictate the position as to whether JRC supports, opposes, or remains neutral.

Synthetic Drugs:  Bills relating to controlled substances, particularly those 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.  The Iowa Pharmacy Board has pre-filed a bill.

First of all, the bill extended the time limit of designating a temporary controlled substance from the end of one general assembly to 2 years.  A two-year designation as temporary is far too long.

Second, JRC OPPOSES the bill based upon statements within a past Fiscal Note:

Synthetic Drugs The correctional impact is expected to be minimal due to the low number of convictions under current law.  Enhancing the penalties will increase the incarceration rate and lengthen the term of supervision, both in the state prison system and Community-Based Corrections (CBC).  Offenders convicted under the provisions of this bill will remain under supervision longer than current law.

Minority Impact: To the extent convictions occur under the provisions of the bill, there will be a minority impact, specifically to Blacks.  Blacks comprise approximately 3.4% of the Iowa population but represent approximately 27.3% of the convictions impacted under this bill.

The fiscal note points out (italicized emphasis above) that there will be very few convictions.  Yet, those convicted will serve enhanced penalties.  JRC opposes the enhancement of penalties where research is lacking as to whether the enhancement will serve a viable purpose.  It also points out that minorities will be heavily impacted by the provisions of this bill.

JRC may have to oppose these bills based upon language which was included in the past: adding vague language about risk assessments.

RE-ENTRY

Fair Chance Law:  Bills prohibiting employers and employment agencies from seeking the criminal record or criminal history from applicants for employment under certain circumstances, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions.  JRC SUPPORTED this legislation in 2016, most popularly known as the “Ban-The-Box Bill”, but more respectfully known as “The Fair Chance Act”.

 

Felon Voting Rights Video

Below is a video of a voting rights discussion sent in by Mike Cervantes of Inside OUT Reentry Program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljf1h-yxIws

News from the Department of Corrections

On Friday, January 6, the Iowa Board of Corrections approved two changes in wardens at Iowa prisons.  Patti Wachtendorf, who is currently the warden at Iowa Correctional Institute for Women at Mitchellville, will succeed Warden Nick Ludwick, who is retiring Jan. 31, at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Sheryl Dahm, who is currently the warden at the Clarinda Correctional Facility, will replace Wachtendorf as the warden at Mitchellville.  No one was named to replace Dahm in Clarinda, according to Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff, but Deputy Warden Stephen Weis will serve as acting warden until a new warden is named.

The Board also reviewed eight policy changes and will act on them at the next meeting.  Three of the policies are described to be confidential, the others are related to the administration of the department and work programs and work-related injuries.  Getting the Board to approve policy rather than having policy approved by the director was a huge accomplishment of JRC.

 

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UPCOMING EVENTS

IOWANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY

WILL MEET ON January 24, 2017 at 6:30 pm at

Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

3700 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311

Dues are a minimum of $15 per year.  Checks may be made out to IADP and sent to:

IADP

P.O. Box 782

Des Moines, IA 50303

Those who have not attended a meeting are also encouraged to join.  We ask that you include an email address with the submission of their dues.

A tax-deductible gift may be made to the “IADP Fund”, but a contribution to the “Fund” will not make you a member.  Contributions to the IADP Fund” may be sent to the same P.O. Box in Des Moines.

Organizations’ dues are $50 per year.

************************************************

The next Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners meeting is at noon on Tues., January 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.

 FRIENDS OF IOWA WOMEN PRISONERS

PO Box 71272, Clive, IA  50325

email:  fiwp2011@gmail.com

website:  friendsofiowawomenprisoners.org

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.

[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.

 

JRC Newsletter April 11, 2016

Vol. 7 #7 April 11, 2016

Re-sentencing Of Damon Calaway

The re-sentencing of Damon Calaway was held on Thursday, March 24, 2016 with Judge Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt presiding.  Daniel Voogt was the lawyer for the state and Erin Carr was the lawyer for Mr. Calaway. Calaway’s lawyer was not allowed to see him before the trial.  There were about 15 supporters of Mr. Calaway present.  One of the judge’s staff asked if the lawyers needed to speak to the judge in her chambers before the hearing began.

Apparently Mr. Calaway’s lawyer had requested that Mr. Calaway be allowed to retain an “expert witness” at the state’s expense.  This witness would be from a group of advocates that would gather information about the client as outlined in the Miller decision.  This was denied.    A packet containing letters of support and an e-mail from a counselor stating that he has reached the highest level was submitted.

The judge asked the lawyers to tell her what they felt she needed to do regarding the options. Mr. Carr spoke of Mr. Callaway’s childhood stating he had no role models; no one there to say what is right or wrong.  He got involved with gangs.  In prison he acted out in early years, but had no major reports since 2008.  He has been a leader in groups and has done volunteer work.  He is not the rare case that deserves Life without Parole.  He was recommending 50 years with parole and 25 years with parole running concurrently.

The lawyer for the state recommended LWOP.  He feels the decision of the jury can’t be disregarded.  This was a crime committed by a gang, but Mr. Calaway pulled the trigger.  “I don’t know what more rare and uncommon case would be found.”

Mr. Calaway was asked if he would like to make a statement. “I ask for forgiveness from everyone here who loves me, as they are serving life with me.”   He asked for forgiveness from the victims.  He asked for opportunity based, not on innocence or guilt, but on whether he has changed.  “I am not the boy who went to prison, prison saved my life.  I made the worst decision of my life.  I am not a violent person.”

The judge stated she would give her decision on Monday at 4:00 pm.  We all assembled on Monday at 4:00 pm and then were told that the court room was in use and to come back on Tuesday at 8:30 am.  On Tuesday, the judge re- sentenced Damon to “Life Without Parole.”  He has 30 days to appeal.  Needless to say, this was very hard for the family and friends to hear.

Jean Basinger, IC4JJ Focus Group

Board of Corrections Meeting

The Iowa Board of Corrections met in Davenport at the 7th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services on April Fool’s Day, April 1, at 9:00 am.  Everyone was welcomed by Waylyn McCullough, the district director, who mentioned that the 7th District is the smallest of the eight Community-Based Corrections in Iowa, and it is the only one without a prison.

Several things occurred at this meeting that might be considered odd to the frequent BOC attendee.  Oddity #1:  For the second meeting in a row, only four directors attended.

Oddity #2:  Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff opened his remarks by informing those in attendance that the two fugitives from Newton had been apprehended.  However, he failed to mention that the state is appealing a district court ruling in Polk County in which Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled that “Iowa inmates have a right to a lawyer when fighting Department of Corrections (sic) decisions that can add time to their sentences.”  The district court decision was delivered in plenty of time for the Department to report its findings to the Board.  It is odd that this information was not shared with the Board.

Oddity #3:  The only handouts were the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting.

Oddity #4:  The entire meeting lasted fewer than 50 minutes.

Oddity #5:  Assistant Professor Steve Kalber, a psychiatric nurse and 9th year clinical professor at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, presented a program that is a collaborative effort between St. Ambrose and the 7th Judicial District CBC.  Called “Health Coaching”, nursing students come into the District Offices on Main Street and meet with offenders.  The students discuss items such as physical health, mood, relationships, work, and short term goals with offenders.  The program itself is not odd at all, but Professor Kalber said that “knowledge doesn’t change behavior”.  That quote seems to contradict the DOC programs that rely heavily upon cognitive behavioral treatment, which are based on using knowledge to change adverse thinking and behavior.

Oddity #6:  Professor Kalber admitted that a few offenders just sit there with their arms folded and refuse to participate.  After the presentation, Board member Larry Kudje asked about confidentiality.  It was disclosed that offenders are told before meeting with a student that “interactions will be shared with probations officers”.  Perhaps that isn’t odd after all.

What wasn’t odd about the meeting was the appointment and approval of Kris Weitzell as the new warden at the Newton Correctional Facility.  Come to think of it, it was strange that Ms. Weitzell was approved without discussion by the Board.  But to his credit, Director Bartruff gave a lengthy introduction filled with praise and respect for Weitzell.  It left the Board with little room for discussion or further questions.

The next Board meeting will take place at the Anamosa State Penitentiary at 406 North High Street in Anamosa at 9:00 am on May 6th.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:

HF 2399 – This bill enhances penalties and creates an unfair process for determining who will be sentenced to a term of incarceration and who will receive a sentence of probation.  A risk assessment is required to be performed on a defendant prior to sentencing.  We have always maintained that risk assessments are appropriate for the Parole Board, but their use as a sentencing factor is constitutionally questionable.   The bill allows the court to order electronic monitoring, so long as the defendant pays for the costs associated with the monitoring, installation, etc.  Electronic monitoring will allow authorities to determine where the abuser may be, but it will not provide information “to authorities” as to whether the victim is in the near vicinity.  Moreover, a Fiscal Note of March 7 states:

Minority Impact

One-third of Domestic Abuse-3rd convictions in FY 2015 were committed by African Americans. In year four of this bill’s effect, it is estimated that 71 additional inmates will be serving sentences. Of these 71, 23 (32.2%) are estimated to be African American. This will lead to a disproportionate minority impact, as African Americans currently make up 3.4% of Iowa’s population.

When a fiscal note shows the projections for potentially incarcerating a disproportionate number of minorities as high as this one, we question what alternatives have been initiated to reduce incidents of domestic abuse before attempting to enhance penalties.  Unfortunately, the legislative process becomes the first thought of change in too many cases.  It should be the ultimate last.  This is the second time this year a bill has had the momentum to become law with a heavy projection of increasing the disproportionate representation of African-Americans in prisons and jails in Iowa.  SF 2115 was signed into law by the governor earlier this month.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill, as does the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence [ICADV] and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault [CASA].  HF 2399 passed the House 86-12 on March 8.  It was amended by the Senate and passed 50-0 on April 6.  Please contact your representative and urge a “No” vote on this bill.

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. HF 2333 passed the House 96-0 on March 2.  It has been placed on the Senate’s Unfinished Business Calendar

The following bills have passed both chambers and await the governor’s attention:

SF2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  JRC has been “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0.  It passed the House 97-0 on March 30.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24. It was amended and passed the House 98-0 on March 29.  The amendment enhanced the penalty for “invasion of privacy” from a serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor.  The Senate concurred with the House amendment and passed the bill for the second time by a vote of 50-0 on April 6.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  SF 2016 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It was amended and passed the House 96-1 on March 15. Because it was amended, it was sent back to the Senate for its approval on the new language.  The Senate concurred in the House language and passed it for the final time 49-1 on April 6.  It now goes to the governor for his approval.

The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 and $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing.  HF 2401 passed the House 96-1 on March 2; it passed the Senate 49-0 on March 16. Governor Branstad signed the bill on March 30.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law and this bill changes the mandate to a suggestion.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It passed the House 95-0 on March 17.  It was signed by the governor on April 6.

SF 2115 – The legislation adds “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSED” this measure.  It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd. It passed the House 86-10 on March 15.  We requested a veto from the governor on March 21st.  The governor signed the bill into law on March 30.  There was no fiscal note for this year, but a previous year’s fiscal note with similar language had a Fiscal Note attached that projected a disproportionate minority impact: “approximately 20.8% of offenders may be Black or American Indian”.  The Fiscal Note also projected that “50% of defendants will be indigent”.  We fear these estimates are very conservative given that interference with official acts is used liberally.

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor, as it passed the House.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons.  See Alice’s Restaurant JRC Newsletter, Vol. 7 #5. The bill passed the House by a vote of 71-26 on March 2.  The Senate amended the bill and passed it 47-0 on March 22.  Because it was amended, it was sent back to the House one more time with the Senate’s language, which is a substantial improvement.  It changes the criminal penalties back to the civil penalties that exist now.  The House concurred in the Senate amendment and passed it 94-2 on March 28.  The governor signed it into law on April 6.

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.  Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28.  Signed by the governor on March 11

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25. It passed the House 97-1 on March 1.  Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.

Find out who your legislators are here.

Selected links:

Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/04/nyregion/federal-housing-officials-warn-against-blanket-bans-of-ex-offenders.html?partner=rss&emc=rss By MIREYA NAVARRO The New York Times, APRIL 4, 2016.

$12M sought for wrongful jailing $12M sought for wrongful jailing on Page A1 of Friday, April 08, 2016 issue of Star Tribune

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

Name: ___________________________________________________________

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UPCOMING EVENTS

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.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & PRESENTERS

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.

This newsletter published by: Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, Public Policy Advocates http://iowappa.com/

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