Iowa Governor Terry Branstad Pushes for Criminal Justice Reform
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad spoke of the need for a series of criminal justice reforms during his January 12, 2016 Condition of the State address to the Iowa legislature.
“Maintaining our rights means we must maintain rights for all. It is time for a fresh look at the criminal justice system in Iowa to ensure that we are doing the right thing for all of our citizens.”
In his address, he recognized his responsibility to protect the public. In fact, he stated reform was important in order to punish the most serious offenders who commit the most serious crimes. However, he recognized taxpayers’ dollars may be better spent in some cases on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. These individuals are namely low-level offenders, including drug offenders. ALEC model policy on this issue has sought to “promote the diversion of low-level drug possession offenders from prison and into alternatives such as drug courts and drug treatment programs.”
The governor additionally supports “ban the box,” meaning measures prohibiting employers from asking job seekers on application forms about prior arrests. ALEC concurs with Branstad’s sentiment on the issue and supports a “ban the box” provision for public sector jobs. This provision would further help reduce the recidivism rate by giving individuals a better chance at finding a job upon their release from prison. Branstad, a founding member of ALEC, ultimately recognizes the need for such reforms, as other states such as North Carolina have adopted ALEC model policies pertaining to criminal justice reform and saved nearly $50 million in one fiscal year as a result.
Governor Branstad’s push for criminal justice reform is consistent with several states led by conservative leaders, including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Utah. In summary, Branstad recognizes the financial burden overcriminalization and over-incarceration place on the Hawkeye State’s budget. In addition, Iowa State House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a member of the ALEC Board of Directors, has stated she supports the governor’s proposals and sees great potential for bipartisanship on this issue. ALEC continues to support reforming the criminal justice laws of various states to reflect the need to reduce the prison population, fight overcriminalization, and provide an avenue for lowering recidivism rates, while simultaneously protecting the public from the most serious offenders.