Iowa Criminal Justice Summit Addresses Key Issues with Criminal Justice System

October 1, 2015

Hannah Gourley
(641) 849-0106

CEDAR FALLS, IA, October 1, 2015 – Today marked the first Iowa Criminal Justice Summit, an event held to address systemic problems with the criminal justice system in this country, including the increasing number of crimes, growing prison populations, and the disparities of arrest and incarceration among minorities. The event was held at the University of Northern Iowa, with the goal of collectively addressing urgent problems in our country’s criminal justice system. All three branches of the Iowa government were represented at the Summit, in addition to leaders from various facets of the criminal justice field.
“With this Summit, Iowa is stepping into a leadership role to bring about criminal justice reform,” said Iowa State Representative Helen Miller. “Today we had an open and honest dialogue about the core issues of our system, systemic problems, and reform efforts that have taken place to date. By convening local and national leaders who are committed to change, we finally have a plan for reform that will set the wheels of change in motion.”
Approximately 95 percent of those incarcerated in this country will return to their communities. In Iowa, there are 635 rules and regulations restricting opportunity for those trying to re-assimilate; across the U.S., there are approximately 46,000 laws that restrict opportunities for those with a criminal record.
According to Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, Inc., “Koch has been involved in advocating for criminal justice reform for more than a decade because we believe in the individual liberties contained in the Bill of Rights, limiting government infringement upon those rights and removing obstacles to opportunity for all people, but especially the disadvantaged. Criminal justice reform is the right thing to do from a moral, constitutional, and fiscal perspective and we will continue to work hard for reform in this area.”
"With 2.3 million Americans behind bars and $80 billion spent per year to keep them there, every single American family is now impacted by the criminal justice system. We have work to do. And when you have groups as diverse as the ACLU and FreedomWorks agreeing on solutions, the time is now for criminal justice reform. We are working with lawmakers across the ideological spectrum to safely reduce our prison population, breakdown barriers for those reentering society and remove duplicative and unfair laws from the books,” said Holly Harris, executive director for the U.S. Justice Action Network and its sister organization, Fix Forfeiture.
The keynote address was delivered by Holden and Van Jones, co-founder of #Cut50 – an organization dedicated to the mission of reducing our prison population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady was on hand to discuss juvenile justice. A racial disparity panel also was held, in conjunction with a panel of leaders from several states, to discuss initiatives that have been successful, as well as areas where change is necessary. 
The event was sponsored by Koch Industries and the U.S. Justice Action Network, among others.
The Iowa Criminal Justice Summit
There are more than two million Americans incarcerated today, and more than 95 percent of those people will return to their communities. Across the country, there are seventy million people with criminal records. Overcriminalization and collateral consequences that result from arrest, and sometimes conviction, are just a few of the many issues faced by our criminal justice system today. The Iowa Criminal Justice Summit is an event designed to bring together national voices and community leaders to address systemic problems and to identify a meaningful path to reform.