Legislative Efforts – 2013

Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners is a member of the Justice Reform Consortium (JRC).

JRC advocates for reasonable public policies, programs, and treatment which would serve to reduce the prison population, move offenders back into society as citizens helpful to themselves and others, and thereby protect the public safety. The public policy firm of Fawkes-Lee & Ryan (FL & R) lobbies on behalf of JRC.

The following issues are a part of the Justice Reform Consortium Legislative Agenda for 2013. The issues below are of interest especially to the Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners

Prepared by Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, Public Policy Advocates. January, 2013. www.iowappa.com

1. Restraints on pregnant prisoners – Johnie Hammond, former legislator and now member of the Iowa Board of Corrections, had requested that the Board agree to allow her to have a proposal on restraints introduced as a Department bill. The Board approved this model legislation with a small amendment on Friday, September 14 at the Board’s meeting in Des Moines. JRC will SUPPORT legislation requiring policy for the DOC and county jails that pertains to restraints on pregnant prisoners, as long as the legislation is favorable to the woman and the unborn child.

2. Sexual misconduct by a correctional officer or others – Sexual misconduct committed by employees and agents of the department of corrections and judicial district departments of correctional services is a serious offense. In the past, a bill to enhance the penalty for this misconduct was introduced in both chambers but never made it past the Senate Judiciary Committee. JRC has supported this effort in the past. “There is no such thing as consensual sex in a corrections facility.” We have heard it time and time again. Perhaps this year we may have the cooperation to get this bill enacted. JRC will SUPPORT legislation that enhances the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony. This legislation will be introduced by the Iowa DOC again this session.

3. 23-hour crisis center in Polk County – The Polk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (Polk Co. CJCC) is going to the Legislature to seek funding for a crisis center in Polk County. The purpose of a crisis center is to bring people to the center that do not fit the criminal element of being taken to a jail or Broadlawns Medical Center. In other words, a center where the public intoxicated and obvious mental ill arrestees may be taken to sober up or be referred to a mental health counselor. Supposedly, Dubuque and Waterloo have such facilities. JRC will SUPPORT the Polk Co. CJCC, as long as it does not interfere with funding for CBCs throughout the state that need funding to operate.

4. Funding of Anchor Center and facilities in Waterloo & Sioux City – Seeking funding is a difficult goal to achieve. That is what we said last year and the year before. We were right. We had very little trouble getting this funding from the Democratically-controlled Senate last year, but the House refused to fund a dime for the vacant centers. We had heard that “the Democrats built them without considering funding them and we’re not about to fund them with the state’s austere budget.” Republicans maintain the majority in the Iowa House of Representatives so it is going to be another challenge similar to last year’s efforts. However, we believe that the opposition by the Republicans may not be as strong as it has been in the past. JRC will SUPPORT full funding of these facilities. Iowa DOC is requesting funding again this year.

5. Mandatory minimums – Fawkes-Lee & Ryan have met with legislators, DOC and members of the Iowa Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) of the Criminal & Juvenile Justice Planning Commission (CJJP). In the past, the PSAB has looked at proposing legislation that would eliminate mandatory minimums on certain drug offenses only. Nothing materialized. JRC will SUPPORT legislation, if introduced, to remove ANY mandatory minimum sentence in the Iowa Code.

6. Certified translators – HSB175 and SSB 1073 were companion bills introduced by the Iowa Judicial Branch during the past General Assembly relating to interpreters and translators for limited English proficient participants in legal proceedings and in court-ordered programs. JRC SUPPORTED this legislation. This probably is a bill that needs enactment to comply with federal mandates or standards. However, the cost of implementing this program can be costly. FL & R met with the Court Administrator on 9/18/12 to discuss any consideration of reintroducing this legislation in the upcoming session. If the judicial branch introduces these bills during the 2013 session, JRC will SUPPORT the courts in their effort to make our judicial system function fairly.

7. Crack/powder disparity – The Waterloo Drug Committee of Citizens for Undoing Racism has asked State Rep. Bob Kressig to introduce a bill to equalize the penalties between crack and powder cocaine. Rep. Kressig is the current ranking member of the House Public Safety Committee. The Committee Chair, Rep. Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield) seems an unlikely person to champion this sort of legislation. JRC will SUPPORT legislation “equalizing” the penalties of these two identical drugs. It will STRONGLY SUPPORT legislation that brings the threshold of possession of crack cocaine UP to the current level of powder cocaine possession.

8. No second opinions for inmates – A legislative proposal by the DOC is a change to Iowa Code Chapter 229 that, in the DOC’s words “would not allow an inmate committed to the custody of the Iowa Department of Corrections from requesting a separate examination from a doctor of their choosing. Current practice includes inmates requesting a second opinion from a doctor of their choosing, and the DOC is forced to pay because the inmate has no funds. The DOC is not legally required to provide, and pay for, second opinions for non-psychiatric medical evaluations and should not be allowed for involuntary hospitalizations.” JRC will OPPOSE this proposal on the grounds that mental health is not the same as physical health. A physical ailment can most often be seen, felt, and recognized by outward symptoms. A mental ailment is rooted deep inside a person and does not usually display outward or obvious symptoms. A second opinion is often necessary.

Legislative Efforts – 2012