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July 9, 2011

Split Iowa Supreme Court endorses denial of good behavior credit for sex offender who refuses to admit guilt in treatment program

As detailed in this news report, headlined "Justices: It's OK to push inmates to admit guilt," the Iowa Supreme Court yesterday held that "Iowa sex offenders can be compelled to admit their crimes as part of prison treatment programs without triggering a violation of the inmates' right against self-incrimination." Here is more:

Four of the seven Iowa justices found that the Mount Pleasant Correctional facility didn't violate Robert Harkins' Fifth Amendment rights by denying him time off for good behavior if he refused to participate in a treatment program. The remaining justices said they would have allowed the requirement only if the state offered immunity to prevent any admissions from being used against Harkins in court.

Iowa law says state prison inmates can earn 1.2 days off their sentences "for each day the inmate demonstrates good conduct and satisfactorily participates" in any program he or she is determined by prison officials to need.

Harkins, convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 2006, argued in court pleadings he filed himself that linking those "earned-time credits" to completion of sex-offender treatment violated his constitutional rights because the treatment required signing a contract that would have forced Harkins to "assume full responsibility" for his past offenses and behavior....

[T]he majority of justices - Thomas Waterman, Edward Mansfield, Bruce Zager and Chief Justice Mark Cady - ruled Friday that state prison officials have "important rehabilitative goals" in using the possibility of a longer prison term to compel sex-offender treatment.

"The state is not using a threatened loss of credits to try to extract testimony; instead it is attempting to administer a bona fide rehabilitation program for sex offenders who have already been found guilty under a statutory scheme that afforded them all required due process," Mansfield wrote in a 27-page opinion for the majority.

"Harkins had every right not to be a witness against himself. ... Now that he has been convicted as a sex offender, though, the State of Iowa may constitutionally establish an incentive for him to obtain treatment in prison by withholding earned-time credits if he declines to participate."

Justice Brent Appel, author of a 30-page dissenting opinion on behalf of a minority that included Justices David Wiggins and Daryl Hecht, said the case boils down to a tough choice for Harkins: "Simply put, if he chooses to remain silent by not participating in the program, he likely will be incarcerated for a substantially longer period of time."

Appel's opinion concludes that Iowa has imposed "an impermissible penalty for the exercise of (Harkins') Fifth Amendment rights" and argues that "the state may force Harkins to choose" between self-incrimination and a longer sentence "only if it provides Harkins with use and derivative-use immunity from prosecution."

I cannot yet find a copy of this ruling available on line, but I will post a link to the ful opinion once available.

July 9, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Permalink


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Seems to me that once convicted, a person only has to deal with that guilt personally.

Forcing someone to admit it publicly reeks of tactic used during the Spanish Inquisition and other similar times in history where people may be tortured to admit things they may or may not have done.

I see this as a dangerous path to go down.

Posted by: Questions Authority | Jul 9, 2011 1:30:25 PM


Unfortunately it is a well beaten path because the parole board will not parole inmates that do not admit guilt and show remorse.

Posted by: John Neff | Jul 9, 2011 5:08:47 PM


The result being that factually innocent persons who are wrongfully convicted are forced to either (a) serve longer in prison than persons who are factually guilty or (b) lie.

General Query: You are an attorney representing an innocent man falsely convicted of a gruesome crime for which is serving a lengthy prison term. He is coming up for parole in the near future. He has maintained his innocence. There is some evidence that supports his innocence, but not enough evidence to meet the almost impossibly high burden for an actual innocence finding on collateral review. Therefore you conclude that your client cannot reasonable expect to obtain his release on that ground.

Would you be allowed ethically to recommend to your client that the client lie to the parole board and accept responsibility for a crime he did not commit? (See Model Rule 3.3(a)(3)).

Posted by: C | Jul 9, 2011 5:46:23 PM

Self-criticism is from Stalin. He invited journalists to self-criticize their shortcomings as loyal communists. Some did. He shot them.

Before that time, the Church demanded self criticism in the form of confession. It then used the information to arrest and seize the assets of the blasphemer.

Self-criticism is from a religion, and violates the Establishment Clause. No defense lawyer will ever challenge the fundamentals because the defense bar owes its job to the prosecution and not to the client. A pro se litigant will have to challenge this practice.

Some keep a copy of the Constitution for ready reference. Me, I keep a copy of the Catechism for ready reference, since the law is plagiarized from there, unlawfully in our secular nation.

I don't understand two things about the Jews. Why they vote Democrat, the party of the KKK, and of that rabid anti-Semite, Franklin Roosevelt, who refused to drop a bomb on the rail tracks to the concentration camps, and how Jewish law professors passively accept the indoctrination, and imposition by force of bogus Medieval church doctrines, now rejected by the modern Catholic Church, with apologies, even. These sicko doctrines are alive only in law academia.

From 1457: "Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.57 Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time."

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 9, 2011 7:13:01 PM

nothing suprising here though. our new boogie man the "sex offender" has been stipped of their RIGHTS for years. They have basically been placed on ILLEGAL AFTER THE FACT PROBATION FOR LIFE!

they have become the NEW SLAVE CLASS in this country.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 10, 2011 12:46:31 AM

S.C., Consider that when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was attacked on the floor of the House of Commons for being a Jew, he responded: “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

The majority (albeit shrinking) of Jews today vote democratic because the majority of Republican positions today are, among other things, narrow-minded, callous, hypocritcal, and sanctimonious. Furthermore, it is well-known that fewer Repuplicans than Democrats like lox and bagels, a sine qua non to obtain the Jewish vote.

Posted by: anon13 | Jul 10, 2011 3:07:08 PM

how is this consistent with North Carolina v Alford, decided by the Supreme Court in the 70's, which says a def can plead guilty without admitting that in fact he did anything criminal? Alford pleas are commonly used to resolve cases.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Jul 10, 2011 8:07:47 PM

probably becasue in most states bruce they specifically exempt what is told in sex offender treatment if your dumb enough to give the state enough detail to find a victim...YOUR CHARGED! PERIOD!

even the better therapists will tell you NOT to give any specific details just becasue of that bit of criminal stupidity!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 10, 2011 11:46:30 PM

Here is the opinion:


Posted by: Alan O | Jul 11, 2011 7:33:08 PM

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