Mandatory Minimums in Iowa

Among judges and many others, mandatory minimums are anathema. The American justice system traditionally permits judges to weigh all the facts of a case when determining an offender’s sentence.  But in the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures passed laws that force judges to give fixed prison terms to those convicted of specific crimes, most often drug offenses. Over the last few years the push back against this approach to sentencing has increased, but apparently not in Iowa.

The DesMoines Register reports: 

A bill passed by the Iowa House Tuesday would set mandatory minimum sentences for repeat domestic abuse offenders.

The bill, House File 2399, would require those convicted three separate times to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, regardless of good conduct while behind bars, said Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant.

“(For those convicted three times), a mandatory sentence is not only recommended, but is just,” Nunn said. “And hopefully for those survivors it affords them the ability to start to re-frame their life, to move forward, to recognize that they don’t live in the victimhood of fear. For when they think their offender is going away for three years and is out 10 months later, they are right back in that cycle of violence that has crippled their life.”

That means those convicted on three separate charges of domestic abuse assault would spend at least three years in prison, for example. And those convicted on their third charge of first-degree harassment would spend at least one year in prison.

The legislation also would expand the use of global position monitoring for those convicted of domestic abuse and create rehabilitation options for those in prison.

The bill was opposed by a handful of legislators who said they disagree with using mandatory minimums.

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, noted the bill is opposed by the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, because they say lengthening prison sentences won’t necessarily help keep women safe.

“We’ve cut funding for these kinds of programs for years and now we’re telling them that we don’t care what you want, we don’t care about your expertise and what you know through research and study, we know what’s best for you and this is the way we’re going to do it,” Wolfe said. “So I find that verging on offensive.”

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