Iowa’s Senator Charles Grassley realized a long-term policy goal in December 2018 when President Trump signed the bi-partisan achievement in criminal justice reform entitled the FIRST STEP Act. The legislation is a product of a national effort to reduce recidivism and refine sentencing laws and harsh penalties. It initiates a long-overdue process of evaluating an unsustainable system of incarceration that ultimately punishes communities as well as offenders. The reforms address the reality of a criminal justice system that has imprisoned millions for non-violent offenses who, upon release, are less prepared to live productive lives than before they committed their initial offense. The FIRST STEP Act is a commitment to offenders and communities that the nation will consider the systemic deficits that contribute to a dysfunctional system and act to overcome them.
The same bi-partisan collaboration that yielded success at the federal level is reflected in justice reform efforts in the state level. It places a central focus on the needs of the community to which the offender who has completed their sentence will return. Society has a responsibility to create a justice system that does not compound the error and return an individual likely to inflict even more damage.
A law enforcement system willing to analyze its currents policies is a vital part of a comprehensive effort. ICC supports SSB1038. The bill will require officers to actively engage in preventing the racial profiling that undermines the goals of justice system reform.
Ultimately, true reform combines the interests of the community in justice and protection with the mercy and restoration our Catholic teaching requires we offer to the offender. Meeting our obligation to both will ultimately contribute to the restoration of communities.