August 22, 2011
Why Iowa is a state to watch for sentencing fans and researchers (as well as political junkies)
From straw polls to caucuses, political junkies know that Iowa is a special state in the election season. But this recent article from the Des Moines Register, which is headlined "Hundreds of Iowa inmates could be released on ruling," highlights why sentencing fans also should be watching the state closely in the months ahead:
The Iowa Department of Corrections will have to parole or discharge hundreds and possibly thousands of Iowa inmates early - some of them dangerous - because of a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling, a state official confirmed Thursday night.
Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the department, said the department is recalculating the sentences of roughly 3,200 convicts whose time under corrections supervision is affected by the ruling last month. Officials plan to inform the Board of Corrections today at a meeting in Fort Dodge about the effects of the court decision.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously in July that state law mandated that a convicted sex offender should receive credit for time served while under home supervision, even though he violated probation while at home....
Scaletta said that decision now applies to all defendants whose probation was revoked, regardless of their crime. "We just don't know how many there will be. We're having to do each defendant by hand," he said. "We're on it. We want to get this done as quickly as we possibly can." The department also must notify the defendants' victims.
A helpful reader altered me to this story and provided these follow-up statistics about the import and impact of what the Iowa Supreme Court has wrought:
The headline [of ther Register article] understates what is going to happen. The Iowa Department of Corrections is going to have to release the following (this is clipped from an email Iowa DOC sent to all County Attorneys last week):Currently in Prison = 2,152Currently in Prison and there are civil commitment issues needing addressed = 117Currently on Work Release = 165Currently on Parole = 1010Total = 3,444
They have said this will happen “immediately or within a short time.” [Because the Iowa] inmate count is 8775 ... within a short time the Iowa prison system is going to release approximately one quarter of the inmates ... [and] the parole rolls are going to drop by about 33%."
In other words, Iowa is about to have a court-ordered rapid experience with decarceration. I think all persons concerned with both mass incarceration and crime rates ought to be keeping a very close watch on how all this new freedom in Iowa plays out.
UPDATE: Thanks to commentor Robert for tracking down the Iowa Supreme Court opinion causing the commotion in the Hawkeye State. The unanimous opinion in Anderson v. Iowa, No. 09-0507 (Iowa July 29, 2011) (available here), gets started this way:
“Ours not to reason why, ours but to read, and apply. It is our duty to accept the law as the legislative body enacts it.” Holland v. State, 253 Iowa 1006, 1011, 115 N.W.2d 161, 164 (1962) (Thompson, J.). In this case we must decide whether a convicted sex offender incarcerated after revocation of his probation is entitled to credit against his prison sentence for time spent living at home under supervised probation wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle. The district court denied the credit, and a divided court of appeals affirmed. Although it is counterintuitive to count days living at home against a state prison sentence, we conclude the plain language of Iowa Code section 907.3(3) (2007), requires credit for the time Anderson was committed to electronic monitoring and home supervision during his probation. We therefore vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the district court ruling, and remand for entry of an order providing that sentencing credit.
August 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Permalink
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After reading the decision the decision I found this Des Moines Register article to be disingenuous.
Iowa authorities have simply been ignoring a statute that is quite plain in its meaning.
Posted by: Robert | Aug 22, 2011 3:28:38 PM
The Iowa Court should be commended for following the law. Don't blame the Court when their results are dictated by what's written in the statute.
Posted by: ANON | Aug 22, 2011 4:56:37 PM
i agree they should also be charging anyone involved in these ILLEGAL detentions with kidnapping under color of authority! and get ready to pay though the nose following the civil suits!
sorry only a retard would think you can take someone and basically confine them to their home under what they are laughlinly calling "probation" and think it shouldn't count as prison time!
Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 22, 2011 6:42:13 PM