June 06, 2018
Iowa Sheriff: Grassley Right on Criminal Justice Reform
NOTE: In an op-ed in the Des Moines Register today, Story County, Iowa, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald expressed support for the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The proposal is cosponsored by 28 senators, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and is supported by scores of stakeholders from across the political spectrum.
“Sen. Grassley has it right. Prison reform alone cannot break the cycle of crime. It must be coupled with sentencing reform. Those of us in the law enforcement community hope that the rest of Congress follows his lead.” – Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald
By Story County, Iowa, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald
Des Moines Register | June 6, 2018
Criminal justice reform is once again on Washington’s to-do list. This effort comes after President Trump elevated the need to help men and women who have reformed themselves behind bars get a second chance in his State of the Union address. Leaders from all parts of our society have come to recognize criminal justice reform is urgently necessary to protect public safety, including law enforcement.
A well-negotiated strategy has emerged on Capitol Hill – a bill our own senator, Chuck Grassley, is spearheading that contains sentencing reforms alongside a spate of comprehensive common-sense solutions that together will help break the cycle of crime. As a sheriff and an Iowan, I want to make sure criminal justice reform is done right by Washington.
My decades of experience in leading law enforcement has taught me that we need smart criminal justice reforms to reduce the use of prison as the catch-all response to low-level, non-violent crimes. In 2015, I joined with current and former police chiefs, federal and state chief prosecutors, attorneys general, and sheriffs from all 50 states and across the political spectrum to form Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. Based on our countless collective decades in law enforcement, we know it is not only possible to safely reduce unnecessary incarceration, but that doing so will help us to keep crime at historic lows in Iowa and across our great nation. By shifting taxpayer money away from lengthy incarceration of low-level offenders, we enable law enforcement to concentrate limited resources on what really matters: fighting violent crime and keeping our communities safe.
Sen. Grassley’s bill, which has broad bipartisan support, would do just that. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act would shorten unnecessarily long sentences for minor offenses and fund proven methods to ensure that people coming out of incarceration do not end up back in prison again. The bill would help Iowa’s police and prosecutors to stop the cycle of recidivism and allow Iowa’s federal law enforcement officials to focus on the biggest threats to public safety in our state.
Law enforcement resources are finite, and we should put them toward going after dangerous and violent offenders. As Sen. Grassley recently wrote on FoxNews.com, “[t]here will never be enough funding for back-end prison reform programs as long as there is a steady stream of new inmates with lengthy sentences disproportionate to their crimes.” Rather than locking up people convicted of nonviolent, lower-level crimes for lengthy sentences that do nothing to protect public safety, we ought to put our taxpayer dollars toward the most violent threats our communities and reducing recidivism.
Sen. Grassley has it right. Prison reform alone cannot break the cycle of crime. It must be coupled with sentencing reform. Those of us in the law enforcement community hope that the rest of Congress follows his lead.
Paul Fitzgerald is the sheriff of Story County and a member of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration.
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