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Rehabilitation of Alcoholic and Other Drug Addicted Offenders - Capital Punishment - Juvenile Justice Domestic Violence Sentencing and Corrections - Selection of judges

Promote fair treatment by guaranteeing the rights of all individuals.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa recognizes there is a difference of opinion as to the definition, cause and treatment of alcohol and other drug abuse and that success of treatment for addictions is limited, even with a willing client in a supportive environment.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa opposes capital punishment and its reinstatement in Iowa.

  • There is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent. There does not seem to be a correlation between the murder rate and the death penalty in those states that have it.
  • The death penalty has a disproportionate impact on minorities and the poor and is enforced with prejudice.
  • The death penalty is irreversible, and innocent people are known to have been executed in the past.
  • The costs of execution are higher than those of life imprisonment without parole.
  • Life imprisonment without parole is a sufficiently harsh sentence.
  • It is morally untenable for the state to take a life. Institutionalized killing is inhumane and contributes to a climate of violence.

In the event capital punishment becomes law in Iowa:

  • There should be a minimum age of 21 at which an offender is subject to the death penalty.
  • Insanity and mental retardation should be considered mitigating factors.
  • Special provisions should be made for the appointment of competent counsel in capital cases.
  • There should be no restrictions placed on access to the appeals process.
  • Guarantees should be in place to counteract the effects of prejudice, to provide for automatic review of evidence and trial procedures, and to ensure the penalty is appropriate for the offense.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa supports a multiple approach to juvenile delinquent behavior including emphasis on prevention programs, juvenile justice system procedures, and an increase in juvenile justice system treatment options, including restorative justice programs and principles.
League supports a community approach to the prevention of juvenile delinquent behavior by advocating the use of public and private resources to:

  • Encourage the development of healthy and nurturing families.
  • Assure safety for children in their communities.
  • Facilitate the positive attachment of children to their families and their schools/education.
  • Encourage children in the formation of positive peer relations.
  • Reward children’s healthy lifestyle choices.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa supports a community response to juvenile delinquent behavior that advocates the use of public and private resources to:

  • Establish and adequately fund a wide variety of treatment options to address children’s underlying or contributing problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, illiteracy, etc.
  • Encourage coordination among treatment agencies.
  • Incorporate restorative justice principles whenever possible.

LWVIA supports a juvenile court system that incorporates the following principles:

  • Retains juveniles charged with status offenses, but in a category separate from delinquency;
  • Maintains the confidentiality of Child in Need of Assistance petitions and status offense records;
  • Includes a requirement for special training for policy and court personnel in handling juvenile matters;
  • Permits the establishment of family courts, peer courts, and community courts where feasible;
  • Allows offenses other than felony crimes against a person to be expunged;
  • Maintains a system of graduated responses to delinquent behavior based on number of prior offenses, severity of instant offense, and age at time of offense; and
  • Incorporates restorative justice principles into every appropriate stage of the juvenile justice system.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa finds the need for several changes in providing legal and social support services for victims of domestic violence, including a review of existing penalties for perpetrators, and working for more consistent enforcement of present laws. The League also supports increased funding for services in counseling, shelter, and education for victims and their families. In addition, the League encourages businesses to develop programs to educate and support their employees who are involved in domestic violence, and also to assist employees in maintaining continuity in employment when at all possible. Finally, we urge that the Department of Public Safety be required to publish statewide statistics related to domestic violence, a task currently cited only as an option in the Code of Iowa.
In particular the League of Women Voters supports the following additions or changes in legal processes and penalties:

  • Waiver of fees for filing for protective services;
  • Increase of penalties for all domestic violence offenses and utilization and enforcement of maximum penalties;
  • State-funded periodic training for judicial and enforcement personnel;
  • Enforcement of penalties for batterers who do not complete required training programs; and
  • Booking of domestic violence arrests as domestic violence, not as assault or disturbing the peace, to facilitate the correct compilation of statistics by the Department of Public Safety.

The League of Women Voters also supports continuous and adequate state funding for domestic violence services, including:

  • Support of adequate shelter space;
  • Educational services;
  • Housing subsidies and financial support in the form of rental deposits when victims leave shelter;
  • Counseling centering on the welfare of the victim(s), in safe locations, including counseling for affected children; and
  • Support for local or area legal advocates to assist victims with legal processes as well as advocates to assist with general assistance in safety, protection, and planning for the future.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa supports a justice system that is fair and protects the public safety. LWVIA believes that mandatory sentencing has had an adverse impact on Iowa’s justice and corrections systems.
This adverse impact could be reduced by providing greater flexibility for judges, Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Iowa Board of Parole to consider unique circumstances in criminal cases while sentencing standards set out in the Iowa Code remain applicable. The sentencing standards consider such factors as the number of offender’s prior offenses, age of the offender and severity of the crime.
The LWVIA supports an indeterminate sentencing structure. An indeterminate sentence is a sentence given by the judge that orders the maximum amount of time that is to be served. It permits the releasing authority such as the Iowa Board of Parole in consultation with the Iowa Department of Corrections to release the offender earlier if it is warranted.
The LWVIA supports legislation that considers offenders with special needs. Some examples of offenders with special needs are the mentally retarded, mentally ill, geriatric inmates, and medically needy.
The LWVIA supports Iowa’s system of community based corrections (CBCs) for offenders. CBCs should provide treatment, when appropriate, for offenders in the community while maintaining safeguards for the public. Iowa should maximize community corrections by providing adequate funding.
The LWVIA supports adopting sentencing legislation that is based on valid and reliable research. Such legislation should consider:

  • Proportionality of all sentences to crimes committed
  • Judicial discretion
  • Budget constraints on the Iowa Department of Corrections
  • Effectiveness of treatment and other programs for offenders

Historically, Iowa had selected judges through political elections with the most popular candidates winning. In the 1960's a number of groups, including the League of Women Voters of Iowa, began to look for a better way of selecting judges. In 1962 the people of Iowa were asked to ratify a constitutional amendment to change the judicial selection process. The present system, based on merit selection with periodic retention votes by the voters, was supported by the League and ratified by the voters in 1962. LWVIA continues to support this system.