Ensuring Strong, Safe Communities

Gov. Reynolds speaking in front of the capitol building with a large group of people behind her.

Iowans have a unique ability to come together and resolve tough issues that could otherwise divide us. Respecting our differences, we can find common ground, work to end injustice and keep the peace. We are more alike than we are different, and together we can create positive, productive change. 

More Perfect Union Act

On June 12, 2020, Gov. Reynolds signed the More Perfect Union Act into law just hours after lawmakers in both the House and Senate unanimously approved it. The package of policing reforms was aimed to prevent violence between police and communities and address racial injustices.

  • Bans law enforcement from using chokeholds, except to prevent deadly force. 
  • Strengthens requirements for anti-bias and de-escalation training, and certification of officers.
  • Prohibits law enforcement fired for serious misconduct from being rehired.
  • Allows the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute officers whose actions result in death.

Back the Blue Act

Law enforcement officers take an oath of honor to serve their communities, and willingly put themselves in harm's way to protect lives and property every day. In return, we must do our part to protect and defend them.

This year, Gov. Reynolds is proposing legislation that calls for tougher penalties on those who harm law enforcement or cause chaos in their community. 

  • Officers shall have the right to pursue civil remedies against a person that injures them for being law enforcement or files a false claim against them.
  • Enhance penalties under Iowa Code for harassment and assault of peace officers.
  • Address riotous behavior through higher penalties for actions that destroy communities.
  • Withhold state funding to local governments that reduce police budgets.

Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform

In November 2019, Gov. Reynolds established the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform. The committee was charged with making recommendations for building an unbiased criminal justice system in Iowa. The committee has presented several recommendations focused on supporting the successful re-entry of incarcerated individuals, many of which have now been implemented.

  • The Governor’s licensing reform bill changed the process used to grant professional licenses to those with past convictions. Only convictions directly related to the professions can be grounds for denial.   
  • High school equivalency tests are completed by all incarcerated individuals. 
  • Incarcerated individuals can receive Second Chance Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education through Southeastern Community College and Iowa Central Community College. 
  • Assistance provided to improve reentering citizens’ access to transportation.

This year, legislation will be introduced based on the committee’s latest recommendations to end racial profiling: 

  • Adopt a statutory prohibition on disparate treatment in law enforcement activities and the delivery of law enforcement services.
  • Require and automate data collection on race and ethnicity from law enforcement stops.  
  • Assign a reconstituted Justice Advisory Board, with more representation for communities of color, the responsibility to analyze the stop data and issue an annual report on profiling in Iowa.

Re-entry Pilot Program

Approximately 72% of people in prison have a history of mental illness and substance use disorder. Providing treatment during incarceration and connecting individuals with resources in advance of re-entry to the community is critically important to reducing recidivism and protecting public safety. 

Currently in Iowa, 61% of incarcerated individuals do not receive or complete treatment while incarcerated, and 90% of moderate to high-risk individuals do not receive treatment in community-based correctional facilities. Iowa’s current recidivism rate is 39%, but by improving access to treatment, it’s estimated the rate could drop to 30%.

  • $1 million will fund pilot programs to expand treatment in Community Based Corrections and at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women and  Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. 

Felon Voting Rights 

On August 5, 2020, Governor Reynolds signed Executive Order 7, restoring the voting rights of thousands of Iowans who have completed their felony sentences. This action was a step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances and the need to address inequalities in Iowa’s justice system. The Governor’s ultimate goal remains a constitutional amendment that offers a permanent solution to this issue and will be introducing legislation to do so again this year.