A prison reform advocate is urging Iowa lawmakers to consider sentencing reform along with discussions of spending millions on new prisons. Reverend Carlos Jayne is a lobbyist for the Justice Reform Consortium. Jayne says too many crimes come with pre-determined sentences that don’t allow judges discretion to shorten the prison stay or send the offender to a treatment program.
Jayne says the legislature should appoint a nonpartisan commission to review sentences. Jayne says that would get it out of the political arena, "Because that is where we get into the difficulty, because whenever we do anything in Iowa that looks like we’re doing something fairly reasonable for the prison population, people get accused then of being soft on crime."
While lawmakers consider spending money on $200 million in prison upgrades, Jayne says no-one is talking about sentencing reform. He says if the state would do something about sentencing reform, it would help us get to the point where we didn’t need more prison beds, but could maybe get even start talking about getting rid of a prison. "That would be something if we were ever able to start to discuss that possibility," Jayne says.
Jayne says he supports a majority of the Department of Corrections recommendations for prison upgrades, but says without sentencing reform, the department will be back in a few years complaining of overcrowding again. Jayne made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program "The Exchange."