A Republican lawmaker who is not seeking re-election is urging colleagues who’ll return next year to make another try at passing a “Second Chances” bill.
It would establish a list of guidelines for when Iowa governors have the power to release inmates who’ve been sentenced to life in prison.
“The ‘Good Book’ teaches that government needs both justice and mercy,” Representative Terry Baxter, a Republican from Garner, said during a retirement speech in the House this week. “Iowa needs a comprehensive pathway to commute just a handful of (sentences for) those who’ve made a big difference in their life and done significant things to change.”
Iowa governors have the general authority to commute, or shorten, life sentences, but rarely do. Baxter, who is an ordained minister, considers the “Second Chances” bill a piece of unfinished business as he ends his eight year career in the Iowa House.
“I’ve had the opportunity of going into our prisons and spending time with some men and women who have been behind bars for 40, 50 or more years,” Baxter said. “Some of them made some very tragic decisions when they were intoxicated, stoned or themselves victims of some kind of abuse or dysfunction and they are radically different people today and I’ll just ask the question: How many of you are the same person today that you were 40 years ago?”
In 2010, Baxter co-founded a non-profit group called GoServ Global that provides aid to disaster stricken areas — with missions underway today in central America and Africa. Baxter said he’s retiring from the legislature to devote the majority of his time to the group.