Gov. Terry Branstad told lawmakers, “It’s time for a fresh look at our criminal justice system," during his annual Condition of the State Address.
Branstad proposes sealing the criminal records of juveniles, working to make juries more racially diverse, and making sure a defendant’s race does not play a role in how they are charged, tried, or sentenced.
"A fairer and more equitable criminal justice system also aligns with the long-term interests of taxpayers who fund our criminal justice system," says Branstad. "In many cases, tax dollars may be better spent on rehabilitation rather than incarceration."
Democrats say the governor suggests good ideas and agree with his fiscal motives, but are waiting until the details of these proposals are revealed.
"Hopefully he’ll be willing to follow through and actually approve legislation that does make some fundamental changes, instead of, to be honest, some of the little things that we’ve done in the past that may look good on paper, but don’t really make a difference," says State Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton. "It's going to take a wiliness on the part of the House, the Senate, and the governor to take some risks and pass some bills that are pretty broad."
According to the Prison Policy Initiative black inmates make up 23 percent of Iowa's prison population, but only three percent of the entire state.