The Iowa House and Senate have voted to toughen penalities for kidnapping a minor, but Senate Democrats and House Republicans cannot agree on whether those convicted of violent crimes or sexual abuse against a minor should be allowed to earn time off for good behavior in prison.
The debate was sparked by last year’s high-profile case involving a man released early from prison who kidnapped two girls and killed 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard before hanging himself. Representative Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone, has led the debate in the House.
“I have talked to literally dozens and dozens and dozen of Iowans about what happened and about this bill,” Baltimore said this week. “Not one of the public citizens that I have talked to have encouraged me to back down one inch.”
The Republican-led House has twice voted to enhance the penalty AND do away with time off for good behavior for kidnappers convicted of preying on kids. The Democratically-led Senate has voted just to enhance the penalty for kidnapping kids, but not to get rid of time off for good behavior in prison. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, backs the senate’s approach, as she said research is needed to determine the impact of getting rid of time off for good behavior.
“There is no evidence to show us that that is a good idea, that it will make Iowa a safer place to live,” Wolfe said. “It sounds good, but often the obvious fix isn’t the best fix or even a fix at all.”
The House voted on the issue this week and sent a bill back to the senate for consideration.