criminal justice

Katie Peikes / IPR

Department of Justice officials say the problem of sexual harassment in housing often goes unreported. Officials met with Sioux City-area community groups Friday at the Sioux City Public Museum to spark conversations about how to recognize and prevent these problems.

Paul "710928003" / flickr

A pilot program in four Iowa counties that aims to make the pretrial bond system fairer for all defendants will continue through the end of the year because of a veto by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. But a new, shorter timeline limits research efforts around the program.

Floyd County Government. / http://www.floydcoia.org/441/Jail

Voters in a North Iowa county approved a $13.5 million bond Tuesday to build a new jail. More than 68 percent of Floyd County voters signed off on the referendum, clearing the 60 percent threshold needed to pass. Pressure to rebuild the 77 year old facility has been building for years.  An inspector from the state Department of Corrections first labeled the Floyd County facility inadequate in 2013.

Iowa capitol
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A new program that aims to reduce jail populations could be terminated under a bill that passed the Iowa House Monday evening.

A bill appropriating funds for the state’s justice system includes a provision that would outlaw the use of the Public Safety Assessment in pretrial hearings when determining whether to detain or release a defendant before trial.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

A Johnson County judge has found Lamar Wilson was not justified in shooting three people on Iowa City’s crowded Pedestrian Mall last summer.

Wilson claimed he fired his gun in self-defense, and asked the judge to grant him immunity from criminal charges in an early test of Iowa’s “stand your ground” law, which was passed in 2017.

supreme court
John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has made it possible for people who plead guilty to a crime to later claim innocence and challenge their conviction.

In a 4-3 opinion issued Friday, the court overturned its previous interpretation of Iowa law concerning post-conviction relief for those who plead guilty.

ballot
Jeff Gitchel / Flickr

A bipartisan bill that would restore voting rights to Iowa felons who have completed their criminal sentences moved forward Monday in the Iowa House.

Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton. They both agreed to move the bill to the full House Judiciary Committee.

Courtesy of Essie Justice Group

One in four women and nearly one in two black women have a family member in prison; and while solutions to mass incarceration have largely focused on men, there are millions of women who have family members in prisons, jails and immigration detention centers.

Emily Woodbury

Research shows that roughly five percent of the criminal population is responsible for more than half of the incidence of crime. This same group accounts for between 50 to 90 percent of the most violent crimes, such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses the successes and failures of our criminal justice system with Iowa State University sociologist, Matt DeLisi. 

John Pemble

Mandatory minimum sentences require felons to serve a predefined term for certain offenses, and a proposal being considered at the Iowa Statehouse would lower mandatory sentences for certain, non-violent drug crimes.

Photo courtesy of Jason Sole

Jason Sole is a former gang member and three-time convicted felon turned community educator. He now works on reducing recidivism and bringing attention to the racial and economic disparities that lead to mass incarceration.

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa law enforcement officers are echoing comments made by Dallas Police Chief David Brown after last week’s shootings, saying, “Send us your applicants.”

Departments across the state have been actively trying to diversify their forces by reaching out to minority communities in the state, but they aren’t getting applications. Daniel Trelka  is Chief of the Waterloo Police Department.

New reforms to Iowa sentencing code in the areas of child endangerment, non-violent drug offense, and robbery were signed into law on Thursday. Gov. Terry Branstad calls the legislation "a balanced approach" aimed at making Iowa’s criminal justice system more equitable.

Child Endangerment

People convicted of child endangerment resulting in death in Iowa now must serve 30 to 70 percent of their sentence before they can be paroled. Though the crime has the sentence of 50 years, offenders have been immediately eligible for parole.

Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia / Wikimedia Commons

Supporters of a sentencing reform bill approved by the Iowa legislature this session call it a "step in the right direction," despite the fact that there is bipartisan agreement that more steps are needed to address racial disparities in Iowa's criminal justice system.

The bill is awaiting Governor Terry Branstad's signature.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether it violates the state’s constitution to permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. 

The constitution states anyone who commits an “infamous crime,” forever loses the right to vote, though the text offers little context as to what makes a crime "infamous."

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Nineteen states have adopted policies that leave questions about criminal history off a first round job application. Legislation to “ban the box” is now being considered in Iowa, with civil rights groups for the move, and some business leaders speaking out against it. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Justin R. McCarthy, a welder with a felony conviction on his record, about finding work after being released from federal prison.

Michael Leland/IPR

Governor Branstad has proclaimed this week “Martin Luther King, Jr, Week" in Iowa.  At a ceremony this morning at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the governor signed a proclamation and repeated calls for criminal justice reform he made last week in his “Condition of the State” address.  He says in some cases, rehabilitation might be a better use of tax dollars than incarceration.