Newsbrief: Iowa League of Women Voters Criticizes Drug Policy, Calls for Sentencing Reform 4/8/05

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After an 18-month study of prison and sentencing policy in Iowa, that state's chapter of the nonpartisan national civic organization, the League of Women Voters (LWV), has called for serious sentencing reform, citing a huge increase in the number of drug offenders jailed in the Hawkeye State since 1990. Other local LWV organizations have also proven to be friends of drug reform, most notably in Seattle and the state of Texas.

In a letter to the Iowa legislature, Iowa LWV sentencing and corrections committee member Johnnie Hammond and Iowa LWV president Pat Jensen put lawmakers on notice that the group is seeking dramatic changes in a state criminal justice system that has seen the number of prisoners nearly double in 10 years, from 4,077 in 1991 to 8,108 in 2001. Much of the surge in prisoners is a result of drug law enforcement, the pair noted. The number of drug prisoners had tripled in that 10-year period, with the number imprisoned for methamphetamine -- the heartland's demon drug du jour -- increasing by a whopping 662% in less than a decade, from about 100 per year in 1995 to about 800 per year in 2003. That growth in drug prisoners was "of particular concern," the Iowa LWV told legislators.

In January, the pair noted, the Iowa LWV adopted a position on criminal justice issues that criticized mandatory minimum sentences as having "an adverse impact" on the justice system and supporting an indeterminate sentencing structure. Judges, the corrections department, and the parole board need "greater flexibility," the organization concluded. It also called for "proportionality" in sentencing.

"We found that mandatory prison sentences often denied the judicial system the ability to look at offenders' risk assessment and impose probation or a shorter term of incarceration," wrote Hammond and Jensen. "Iowa's budget is threatened with being swallowed up by Department of Corrections costs."

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Issue #381 -- 4/8/05

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Medical Marijuana Bills Moving in the States | Hemp Legislation on the Move in the States | NORML 2005: Activists Meet and Plot in America's Marijuana Mecca | Pushing the Envelope in Oaksterdam | How Did Your US Representative Vote on Medical Marijuana Last Year? | Please Help Students Losing Financial Aid for College Because of Drug Convictions Get Their Aid Back -- Alerts Online for the House, Senate, and Arizona and Rhode Island Legislatures | Newsbrief: With Prohibition Failing, China Calls for "Peoples' War" on Drugs | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Allowing Drug Dog Searches Outside People's Homes | Newsbrief: State Courts in Indiana, Oregon Restrict Police Garbage Searches | Newsbrief: Iowa League of Women Voters Criticizes Drug Policy, Calls for Sentencing Reform | Newsbrief: NORML Issues Sobering Report on Prohibitionist "Drugged Driving" Offensive | Media Scan: American Enterprise Institute on US Drug Policy, New York Times on Hurwitz Case, Christopher Hallam on Afghanistan, NYPD Narcotics Against Legalization | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar


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