Mandatory minimum sentences require felons to serve a predefined term for certain offenses, and a proposal being considered at the Iowa Statehouse would lower mandatory sentences for certain, non-violent drug crimes.
The bill, House File 579, is now being considered by the Iowa Senate. It aims to alleviate overpopulation in Iowa prisons. Another goal is to lower the disparity of African-Americans in Iowa’s prison system by changing the sentencing standards for crack and powder cocaine offenses.
On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a conversation on this proposal, along with Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell. Also joining the conversation: Rep. Zach Nunn (R), of Bondurant; Rep. Mary Wolfe (D), of Clinton; *Mandy Martinson, a native of Mason City who received a 15-year federal sentence for a drug-related crime; Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa/Nebraska NAACP; and Molly Gill, the director of federal legislative affairs at Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
*While Mandy's case in particular would not be impacted by this bill, the impact of federal mandatory minimum sentences is comparable to mandatory sentences at the state level.