Justice Reform here in Iowa

Vol. 3 #4 March 4, 2012

Roller skating from meeting to meeting

It’s been busy at the Capitol. So busy that it’s been suggested that we wear roller skates to keep up. In the weeks leading up to the first funnel deadline, we could feel the steady growth of stress and pressure to get policy bills moving out of subcommittees so that they could pass out of committee before being declared dead for the session. Most policy bills must pass out of a committee before the first funnel deadline in order to be eligible for debate on the floor of its respective house.****

 

Below is a sample of some of the subcommittee meetings that we attended in the final week or two prior to the first funnel deadline (Friday, February 24). This list is not inclusive:****

 

House File 2155- This is a bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Anderson(R-Clarinda) that establishes a medical treatment unit at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute for certain inmates under the supervision of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The gist of this bill is to move some inmates from the Medical & Classification Center in Oakdale who are bedridden and wheelchair confined to this unit where skilled nursing care already exists. Rep. Anderson explained that, even if this bill does not get enacted this year, he would like to keep the discussion going.

Currently, there is room for 30-60 beds, depending upon how the ward is set up. There are arguments in favor and against this proposal, but JRC believes the pros heavily outweigh the cons. We support this proposal. However, the bill is no longer eligible for consideration this session.****

 

*House Study Bill 637: If this looks familiar; it may because we wrote about this in the previous JRC newsletter. This is a bill that allows for the compassionate parole of inmates who suffer from a “chronic infirmity, physical limitation, serious illness or serious disease related to aging,” or have “an existing medical or physical condition that is permanent and is physically or mentally incapacitating,” or the inmate is terminally ill. A subcommittee on this bill followed the subcommittee on HF 2155 (above). HSB 637 passed out of the subcommittee and out of the House Judiciary Committee. It is now on the House Calendar as HF 2391. Two weeks ago we opposed it; today we are registered as “undecided”. *

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*Problems with the bill remain unresolved. The concept is great; the reality of accomplishing this endeavor is going to take some work, cooperation, and money. * ****

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HF 2253– This bill requires a parent to report to a law enforcement agency within 24-hours that a child under the age of 13 is missing. The bill is popularly known as Caylee’s Law, named after a 2-year-old child whose mother was Casey Anthony, the subject of a high profile Florida case who was acquitted of a first degree murder charge. A good discussion ensued during this subcommittee meeting. Representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, the State Appellate Defender, and the County Attorneys Association joined JRC in opposing the bill for several similar reasons. No vote was taken to move the bill out of subcommittee, but it is understood by the three subcommittee members and parties involved that a letter will be sent to the subcommittee in which all parties sign off, explaining how current laws will cover a similar incident if it occurs in Iowa. HF 2253 will not proceed. However, if it is discovered that a similar situation in Iowa is not covered by current law, a funnel-proof leadership bill will emerge. ****

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*Highlights of committee meetings*

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The House Public Safety Committeevoted to go into a subcommittee as a whole to take up HF 398, bill for an act modifying the criminal offense of interference with official acts. The current law enhances the penalty if the defendant “inflicts” an injury upon the officer in the course of the interference. The modification would remove the word “inflict” and replace it with language that enhances the penalty if the officer suffers bodily injury. There is a big difference.****

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Some people have called this the clumsy cop bill. As many of us read it, if the officer is injured in the course of the arrest, through no fault of the defendant, the enhancement of the penalty will be considered. The County Attorneys’ representative said that it wouldn’t happen that way because the fourth word in the subsection is “knowingly”. We disagree. Two sentences and twelve lines later the word “however” shows up. And it shows up before the enhanced penalty of an “aggravated misdemeanor” is mentioned in the bill. The “however” negates the “knowingly”. It’s basic sixth grade grammar. ****

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This bill is totally unnecessary. If a law enforcement officer is injured in the course of an arrest there are plenty of other solutions. There is the crime of assault on a police officer (with enhanced penalties), or the accused could be charged with resisting arrest, or reality suggests that the officer file a workers’ compensation claim. But enhancing the penalty without a causal connection between the officer’s injury and the interference by the defendant is unacceptable. We asked that a correctional impact statement be proffered. Our suggestion regarding a correctional impact statement encouraged Rep. Deborah Berryto ask for a racial impact statement. ****

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Credit goes to Committee member Rep. Rick Olson(D-Des Moines), who asked the floor manager if this bill would make it easier for prosecutors to convict someone. He was told that it would. Rep. Olson harshly responded by indicating that a bill should not be used to make it easier to convict. “That is not what this committee is about.” * ***

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The bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote. We are registered “Against” this bill.****

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House Judiciary Committeemeeting – The Committee considered HSB 525, a bill that pertains to obscene material and human trafficking. The passage of this legislation has been on the Attorney General’s wish list since 2007. The intent of the bill is to overrule the Iowa Supreme Court’sdecision in State v. Muhlenburch, which held that Muhlenbruch had one computer and could therefore only be charged with one crime of possession of indecent or obscene material, no matter how many images were on the one computer. The AG’s Office wants to change that law so that each image is a separate crime. Muhlenburch had 348 pornographic images of sexual activity by minors on his computer. Our argument is that Muhlenburch would have had a lighter sentence under these conditions if he would have touched the child. An amendment that adds human trafficking to the list of crimes requiring sex offender registration, as well as making it clear that victims under the age of 18 cannot be charged, was taken up by the Committee. We believe there are several problems with the amendment. The amendment was adopted by voice vote and the bill passed out of Committee by a vote of 21-0. The bill is renumbered as HF 2390and sits on the House Calendar. ****

Another bill of interest to JRC during this committee meeting was HF 2157, a bill that provides for the expungement of records in certain circumstances. The best way to explain what this bill does is to give an example. Imagine a person being charged with possession of marijuana, and also charged with a tax stamp violation. The person may have the tax stamp violation dropped in the course of a plea bargain. The plea bargain may include a deferred judgment on the possession charge. So, if the defendant does everything she is supposed to do, and the sentence is deferred, the crime will not show up on the “Courts Online”. However, the tax stamp violation will. It may show that the charge was dropped, or that the offense is crossed off, but the reality is that it is still there. The fact that the tax stamp violation remains leaves behind unanswered questions. This bill will allow the tax stamp violation to be expunged from the record. An amendment that requires all fines and fees to be paid off before the record is expunged was adopted. The amendment also provides that once expunged, the sentence goes off the public record. The bill passed the Committee by a unanimous vote of 21-0. There will be an amendment before it comes up for debate on the floor of the House delaying its effective date to allow for the courts to comply. The bill is now HF 2379. We are registered as “undecided” because it doesn’t make sense to require that all fines and fees must be paid off before the record is expunged. It defeats the purpose.****

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*Appropriations *

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House File 2335, the Justice Systems Appropriations Bill, was the second of the scheduled major appropriations bill debated this year. The House took it up for consideration last Tuesday, Feb. 28. As usual, the minority party attempts to add amendments to the bill while the majority party rejects each of them. However, an amendment introduced by 10 Democrats became acceptable when Rep. Joel Fry(R-Osceola) introduced an amendment to the Democrats’ amendment. The Democrats’ amendment increased funding to the eight Judicial District Departments of Correctional Services (CBCs), particularly in those districts that have a newly-built or newly-remodeled residential facility that remains empty and unstaffed. Those Democrats that introduced the amendment represent Sioux City (Rep. Chris Hall), Davenport (Reps. Cindy Winckler& Jim Lykam https://www.legis.iowa.gov/Legislators/legislator.aspx?GA=84&PID=246), Waterloo/Cedar Falls (Reps. Anesa Kajtazovic, Deborah Berry& Bob Kressig, Ottumwa (Reps. Mary Gaskill& Curt Hanson), and Cedar Rapids (Reps. Todd Taylor& Kirsten Running-Marquardt). Rep. Fry’s amendment says that as “a condition of receiving an appropriation in subsection 1 [the increased appropriations to the CBCs] and to enhance the safety of the general public, the judicial district departments of correctional services, in cooperation with the department of corrections and the department of human services, shall designate a facility for persons who are placed in a transitional release program under chapter 229A or discharged from commitment as a sexually violent predator under chapter 229A because the person is in need of medical treatment.” Chapter 229Apertains to Sexually Violent Predators. In other words, if this language remains in the bill, and the governor doesn’t veto it, funding will be available to staff those empty facilities. However, it would appear that one of those facilities will have to be set aside to house those aging sex offenders who currently reside in the Cherokee Mental Health Institute’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders. NOTE: This particular language is not the same as the medical parole mentioned earlier in this newsletter.* ***

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Please contact your state senatorand urge your senator to keep this language and funding in HF 2335. These buildings are sitting empty, partially heated to keep things from freezing, ready to be used. As we said in the most recent newsletter: “It only makes sense.” Meanwhile, please send a ‘thank you’ note to those representatives that made this possible. ****

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*DOC Board Meeting 3/2/2012*

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The Board of Directors http://www.doc.state.ia.us/BoardofCorrections.aspof the Department of Corrections met via teleconference on Friday, March 3 rd. All directors were present on the call except for Johnie Hammond, Ames. ****

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During Director Baldwin’s remarks, he mentioned the problem of aging inmates. In 10 years, 2000 prisoners will be over the age of 50-years-old. The Department is seeking solutions now before the projected problem gets out of hand. Unfortunately, he keeps bringing up the private sector. We’re not sure where the Department is going with talk of the private sector. This is probably the worst place for merging government and the private sector. That is, unless of course, the plan is to discharge the prisoner completely from DOC supervision.****

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Director Baldwin went over the 2012-2016 Strategic Plan. The current “recidivism rate is 31.8%.” The goal is to get it down “to 25% during the next four years”. We are excited to see the rates falling. If the procedure for determining recidivism is static, this is good news. We wish the Department the best in reaching its goal. However, we are cautious about how this will occur. The director stated: “We know what programs work and what programs don’t.” This broad statement can only lead to the problem of some offenders not receiving the proper services because they might not “fit the mold”. Not everyone can follow the same path. In other words, a program that might be beneficial to a few may be thrown out into the rubbish pile because it is “not cost-effective”. The Board chairperson requested that the Strategic Plan be placed on the April Board agenda.****

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The target date for opening the new facilities at Fort Madison and Mitchellville is 2014. ****

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A few other agenda items were discussed, such as APEX(Achieving Performance Excellence), the 2013 Corrections Budget, and legislative matters, before the board adjourned after an hour.****

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[image: Cost-Benefit][image: Cost-Benefit II]****

[image: Cost-Benefit III]****

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The brochure above is available by asking for it. Please limit your request to fewer than 6. Donations to cover the cost are appreciated. Send requests and/or donations to Joanne Talarico****

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** ** ** ** ****UPCOMING EVENTS****

* *The next *Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners* meeting is at noon on *Tues., March 20 *at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th. ****

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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 Vifor more information.****

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*Voices to be Heard http://www.cfpciowa.org/page.php?id=45** *is a support group for families and children of an incarcerated loved one. The group gathers to support and comfort those who know too well the grief that comes to those left behind when someone they love is incarcerated. The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Union Park Methodist Church (East 12th & Guthrie in Des Moines) from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. The group brings in speakers, performs outreach, provide support groups and leadership classes. The next two meetings are scheduled for March 6 and the 20th. Contact Sue for more information. ****

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*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 ****

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