Meth, Prison Reform On 2004 Agenda In Iowa


Methamphetamine will again be a hot issue in the Iowa legislature next year; lawmakers also will debate maintaining Iowa’s current force of state troopers and stabilizing the state’s prison population, says the Des Moines Register. State meth lab seizures increased from eight in 1995 to 764 in 2001; the total entering drug treatment last year was 5,300, up 43 percent from 1997.

Marvin Van Haaften, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, wants to declare pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient, a controlled substance. Iowans would have to show identification and sign a log to buy common cold or allergy medicines containing the decongestant. Legislative leaders are more likely to approve a limit on the number of packages a person could buy in one trip rather than restricting pseudoephedrine sales to pharmacies.

County attorneys want a new crime of child endangerment for those allowing a minor to be present where meth is manufactured, or if someone has materials used to make the drug.

In the past three years, the number of state troopers has declined from 455 to 390, which disturbs some officials. “As our nation grapples with issues relating to homeland security, it is vitally important that we do not further reduce public safety staffing levels, which have already been cut because of past budget reductions,” Cynthia Eisenhauer, director of Department of Management, says. Budget cuts, says another official, raises “concern about simple things like equipping troopers with new firearms – things we sort of take for granted. There’s concern about equipping our crime lab.”

The state’s prison population was at 8,579 in late December, 23 percent over capacity. Expect continued efforts by lawmakers to stabilize that population. “Our goal is to free up 500 beds across the state at the community-based level,” said Lance Horbach, a Republican who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s justice systems budget subcommittee. Lawmakers approved legislation last year that said inmates who were supposed to serve 85 percent of their prison terms would be eligible for parole after serving 70 percent. Senate President-elect Jeff Lamberti said the next wave of sentencing reform might include scraping together more money for community-based beds.


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