Iowa prison inmates and their families are charged about $650,000 each year in prison and jail telephone fees, a practice that is siphoning money from Iowa’s poorest citizens, says the Des Moines Register. The phone charges and associated fees are among the areas the newly created Governor’s Working Group on Justice Policy Reform will research before making recommendations this fall, Gov. Terry Branstad announced. The group will focus on mental health and drug court diversionary programs; minority representation in jury pools; confidentiality issues related to juvenile court records; and cost of prisoner phone calls.
Recommendations from the group are expected by Nov. 1, and Branstad said he expects the Iowa Legislature to consider their ideas in 2016. Members of the reform group will include a representative from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, Iowa Parole Board, and Iowa Department of Corrections; a state court administrator, state public defender, the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, a county attorney and a member of the NAACP.