Iowa Public Television

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Members Keith Kreiman and Chuck Larson

posted on April 11, 2005

Borg: A LITTLE GIRL IS MURDERED AND EMOTIONS RUN HIGH. IOWA LAWMAKERS CONSIDERING SEX OFFENDER LAWS BALANCE PUBLIC SAFETY AGAINST CIVIL RIGHTS. WE'LL DISCUSS THE ISSUES WITH SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS KEITH KREIMAN AND CHUCK LARSON ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, APRIL 8 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: FOLLOWING LAST MONTH'S KIDNAPPING AND DEATH OF TEN-YEAR-OLD JETSETA GAGE OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA LAWMAKERS ARE REVIEWING HOW CURRENT IOWA LAW PUNISHES THOSE WHO ARE CONVICTED OF SEX OFFENSES. A PART OF THAT CONSIDERATION IS HOW THE STATE MONITORS THE OFFENDERS AFTER THEIR RELEASE BACK INTO SOCIETY. THE IOWA SENATE'S JUDICIARY COMMITTEE FORMED A SPECIAL SUBCOMMITTEE ON SEX ABUSE. THREE REPUBLICANS AND THREE DEMOCRATS IN THE EVENLY SPLIT IOWA SENATE REVIEWED SENTENCING AND TREATMENT GUIDELINES FOR SEX OFFENDERS, THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY, AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN PREVENTION AND VICTIM COUNSELING. LATE THURSDAY THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE APPROVED NEW LEGISLATION FOR DEBATE BY THE FULL SENATE. JOINING US NOW TO DISCUSS THOSE PROPOSALS ARE REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHUCK LARSON OF CEDAR RAPIDS AND DEMOCRATIC SENATOR KEITH KREIMAN OF BLOOMFIELD. GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO "IOWA PRESS." THANK YOU.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN, AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, LET'S START WITH YOU. AS DEAN MENTIONED, THERE'S BEEN A FOCUS ON SEX-ABUSE PUNISHMENT, TREATMENT, SEX-ABUSE ISSUES SINCE THIS CASE. WHAT DO YOU AGREE ON? IS THERE AGREEMENT ON CERTAIN THINGS AND, IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY?

Kreiman: I THINK THERE IS ACROSS-THE-BOARD AGREEMENT ON A NUMBER OF THINGS. FIRST OF ALL, WHEN THESE SEXUAL PREDATORS ARE SENT TO PRISON, THEY NEED TO BE TAKING THEIR TREATMENT. YOU HAVE MAYBE CLOSE TO HALF OF THEM NOT TAKING THEIR TREATMENT NOW. THEY NEED TO BE TAKING THEIR TREATMENT. THERE IS AGREEMENT THAT WE NEED TO, IF THEY EVER GET OUT OF JAIL, THAT THEY GO ON SUPERVISION. FRANKLY, IF IT'S A FELONY, THEY SHOULD BE ON SUPERVISION TO A PAROLE OFFICER FOR LIFE. IF IT'S A -- IF IT'S A MISDEMEANOR, FOR AT LEAST TEN YEARS. WE AGREE ON THOSE THINGS. WE AGREE THAT WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT THE TREATMENT IS THERE FOR THESE SEXUAL PREDATORS. IF THEY'RE NOT TREATED, THEN WHENEVER THEY GET OUT, WE HAVE AN INCREASED, YOU KNOW, LIKELIHOOD OF ADDITIONAL VICTIMS. AND THE POINT OF THIS ENTIRE SUBCOMMITTEE IS TO PROTECT IOWA COMMUNITIES, PROTECT IOWA'S CHILDREN FROM THESE SEXUAL PREDATORS.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, IS THAT THE BASIS OF AN AGREEMENT?

Larson: WHAT KEITH HAS DESCRIBED IS ACCURATE. THERE ARE A COUPLE OTHER KEY COMPONENTS, IN MY OPINION. RIGHT NOW UNDER THE CURRENT LAW, MANY OF THE SEX OFFENDERS REFUSE TREATMENT, ABOUT 50 PERCENT OF THEM, BUT THEY CONTINUE TO EARN THEIR GOOD TIME. SO IN THE CEDAR RAPIDS CASE, MR. BENTLEY GOT OUT IN TWO AND A HALF YEARS OUT OF A FIVE-YEAR SENTENCE. WE'RE GOING TO ELIMINATE GOOD TIME IF THEY FAIL TO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE THEIR TREATMENT. ADDITIONALLY, WE HAVE THE PROPOSAL BEFORE US TO DOUBLE THE SENTENCE FOR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD, MOVE IT FROM A "D" FELONY, OR A FIVE-YEAR SENTENCE, TO A "C" FELONY. SO IF THEY DO CONTINUE TO REFUSE TREATMENT, THEN THEY'LL SIT IN PRISON FOR TEN YEARS, COUPLED WITH LIFETIME SUPERVISION THAT SENATOR KREIMAN HAS DESCRIBED. AND THEN BEYOND THAT, WE HAVE A PROPOSAL FOR TWO STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT. YOU COMMIT A SEX OFFENSE ONCE, WE'RE GOING TO GET YOU TREATMENT AND YOU'RE GOING TO GO TO PRISON. BUT IF YOU DO IT AGAIN, YOU'RE OUT. AND THAT'S WHY I BELIEVE THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT IS LIFE IN PRISON.

Borg: "YOU'RE OUT" MEANS LIFE IN PRISON?

Larson: LIFE IN PRISON. AND I'VE HAD CONSTITUENTS ASK ME: THIS OFFENDER WAS CONVICTED TWICE AND WENT TO PRISON TWICE FOR SEX OFFENSES AND IS NOW BACK ON THE STREETS AND HAS OFFENDED A THIRD TIME; HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? AND I DON'T HAVE A GOOD ANSWER, AND THAT'S WHY TWO STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT IS THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, IS THE LEGISLATURE IN DANGER OF RUSHING TO JUDGMENT, ACTING IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT? YOU'RE ACTING IN THE WAKE OF A HIDEOUS CRIME IN CEDAR RAPIDS. SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE HAVE A COOLING OFF PERIOD TO THINK ABOUT THIS?

Kreiman: WELL, I THINK THAT THE HOUSE ACTED EXPEDITIOUSLY IN PASSING HOUSE FILE 619, THEIR VERSION OF THE SEX ABUSE BILL. WE DID SLOW IT DOWN A LITTLE BIT IN THE SENATE BY APPOINTING THE SUBCOMMITTEE. AND THE SUBCOMMITTEE, YOU KNOW, CHAIRED BY SENATOR LARSON AND SENATOR DVORSKY, HAVE DONE JUST A GREAT JOB. AND THEY NEED TO BE COMMENDED FOR THE JOB THAT THEY'VE DONE. THEY'VE TAKEN TESTIMONY FROM THE COUNTY ATTORNEYS. THEY'VE TAKEN TESTIMONY FROM VICTIMS GROUPS. THEY'VE TAKEN TESTIMONY FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. AND WITH ALL OF THIS TESTIMONY, I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE SUBCOMMITTEE IS GOING TO MAKE A DELIBERATIVE, EFFECTIVE RESPONSE.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, WHY DID IT TAKE THE MURDER OF A TEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL TO FORCE THE LEGISLATURE TO ACT?

Larson: MIKE, IT'S UNFORTUNATE. MANY OF THE PROPOSALS THAT ARE IN THE AMENDMENT THAT WE'RE GOING TO BRING TO THE SENATE FLOOR WERE PASSED SEVERAL YEARS AGO. SOME WERE PASSED OUT OF THE IOWA HOUSE. KEITH AND I BOTH WORKED ON. THEY DIED IN THE SENATE. WE HAVE CHANGED IOWA LAW TO REQUIRE DNA SAMPLING OF ALL FELONS. THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND PUBLIC SAFETY WASN'T DOING IT. NOW IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET IT DONE. INCREASE IN THE PENALTY FOR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD WAS INTRODUCED EARLIER IN THE SESSION, BUT IT FAILED TO MAKE IT OUT. SO IT'S UNFORTUNATE, BUT THE TRAIN IS MOVING AND WE'RE GOING TO SEE SOME VERY POSITIVE CHANGES FOR PUBLIC SAFETY.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, I WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THESE -- WE WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THESE SPECIFICS THAT BOTH OF YOU HAVE MENTIONED IN A MOMENT. BUT I WANT TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THE WAY RIGHT AT THE TOP, AND THAT'S THE DEATH PENALTY. REPUBLICANS HAVE SAID THEY WILL OFFER AN AMENDMENT TO REINSTATE THE DEATH PENALTY IN IOWA TO THIS LEGISLATION. SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER MIKE GRONSTAL HAS SAID IF THAT HAPPENS, HE WILL USE HIS AUTHORITY AS COLEADER OF THE SENATE TO JUST DEFER ON THE BILL. SO, SENATOR LARSON, WHY FOOL AROUND WITH THE DEATH PENALTY, AND ARE YOU NOT RUNNING THE RISK OF LOSING ALL THIS LEGISLATION IF YOU REPUBLICANS INSIST UPON PURSUING THE DEATH PENALTY?

Larson: NO, DAVID. I JUST SPENT A YEAR IN A COUNTRY WHERE THE PEOPLE DIDN'T HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH. IN AMERICA WE DO. AND THE DEATH PENALTY IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE THAT I BELIEVE DOES DESERVE TO BE DEBATED. UNDER IOWA LAW, IF YOU KIDNAP SOMEONE, IT'S A CLASS "A" FELONY OR YOU RECEIVE A SENTENCE OF LIFE IN PRISON. THERE'S NO INCENTIVE TO KEEP THE VICTIM ALIVE. AND IN THE BENTLEY CASE, WE SEE THAT HE KILLED THAT YOUNG GIRL. AND SO NOW SHE CAN NO LONGER TESTIFY AGAINST HIS BROTHER.

Yepsen: SENATOR, SO DO WE GET HUNG UP IN THIS STATE ON THE DEATH PENALTY AND NOT DO THESE OTHER THINGS THAT YOU'RE AGREED UPON, OR IS THIS JUST A PASSING THING?

Larson: SENATOR KREIMAN AND I HAVE GREAT CONSENSUS ON THESE ITEMS THAT WE'VE DISCUSSED. SENATOR MCKIBBEN WILL BE OFFERING THE DEATH PENALTY AMENDMENT FOR DISCUSSION. I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO TAKE THE TRAIN OFF THE TRACKS BECAUSE WE DO HAVE CONSENSUS ON THESE, BUT IT DOES DESERVE DEBATE.

Yepsen: AND, SENATOR KREIMAN, WHY DON'T DEMOCRATS WANT TO TAKE A VOTE ON THIS? ARE YOU AFRAID OF A VOTE?

Kreiman: WELL, RIGHT NOW, DAVID, THE PROCEDURE WOULD BE, SENATOR MCKIBBEN AND SENATOR LARSON COULD BRING THIS PROPOSAL TO THIS SUBCOMMITTEE. FOUR OUT OF THE SIX OF THE PEOPLE ON THE SUBCOMMITTEE HAVE ALREADY VOTED AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE PAST. SPEAKER RANTS HAS INDICATED THAT THE HOUSE WILL NOT DEBATE THE DEATH PENALTY THIS YEAR. SENATOR GRONSTAL HAS SAID WE WILL NOT DEBATE THE DEATH PENALTY THIS YEAR. ARE WE AFRAID OF DEBATE? OF COURSE NOT. BUT WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING LIKE THE DEATH PENALTY DEBATE -- AS YOU MIGHT RECALL IN 1995, YOU KNOW, CHUCK AND I WERE BOTH VERY HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THAT DEBATE. AND IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME, A LOT OF THOUGHT, A LOT OF DELIBERATION, AND IT'S NOT GOING TO BE DONE THIS YEAR, YOU KNOW, BY SPEAKER RANTS AND GRONSTAL.

Borg: SENATOR LARSON, IF YOU DO INDEED MAKE CHANGES IN THE SEX OFFENDER LAW IN HOW THEY'RE PUNISHED AND MONITORED AFTERWARDS, DOES THAT APPLY ONLY TO THE FUTURE, OR WHAT ABOUT THE EXISTING POOL OF OFFENDERS IN SOCIETY NOW?

Larson: IT DOES. IT WOULD ONLY APPLY TO THE FUTURE. NOW, THERE ARE MANY ACTIONS THAT WE CAN TAKE AND WILL BE TAKING TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF BEDS AVAILABLE TO ENSURE THAT THE SEX OFFENDERS DO RECEIVE TREATMENT BEFORE THEY ARE RELEASED. BUT AS FAR AS LIFETIME SUPERVISION, LOSS OF EARNED TIME, ALL OF THOSE THINGS NEED TO BE REMOVED AT THE POINT OF CONVICTION.

Borg: IS THERE ANYTHING, SENATOR KREIMAN, THAT CAN BE DONE TO PROTECT SOCIETY, STIFFEN THE MONITORING OF THOSE WHO ARE OUT IN SOCIETY NOW, OR SHOULD THERE BE?

Kreiman: SURE, THERE ARE THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE. YOU CAN GO TO ELECTRONIC MONITORING OF THOSE THAT ARE ALREADY OUT OR THOSE THAT ARE WAITING, GETTING OUT OF PRISON NOW. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE WAITING GETTING OUT OF PRISON NOW, YOU CAN, AGAIN, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR SUPERVISION IS TOUGH ENOUGH, STRONG ENOUGH, THAT THOSE PEOPLE WILL NOT HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE MORE VICTIMS.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, THESE ARE NOT CHEAP ITEMS YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. DOUBLING THE PRISON TERM FOR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD FROM FIVE YEARS TO TEN YEARS MEANS FIVE MORE YEARS IN JAIL AT 60 SOME BUCKS A DAY. HOW MUCH ARE YOU ESTIMATING THIS WILL COST, AND HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR IT?

Larson: I WOULD ESTIMATE THAT IT'S ABOUT $5- TO $6 MILLION. AND THOSE ARE NUMBERS THAT I'VE WORKED WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS ON. AND DEPENDING ON THE ELECTRONIC MONITORING, WHAT DIRECTION WE GO, THERE COULD BE A HALF-MILLION- TO A MILLION-DOLLAR SAVINGS. SO $5- TO $6 MILLION IS A SOLID FIGURE. I WOULD ESTIMATE AS FAR AS TWO STRIKES YOU'RE OUT, POTENTIALLY ABOUT 20 INDIVIDUALS A YEAR WOULD BE SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON. THERE ARE ABOUT A HUNDRED ON AN ANNUAL BASIS THAT REFUSE TREATMENT. AND SO THE NUMBERS -- THE NUMBERS ARE NOT OUTRAGEOUSLY HIGH.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

Kreiman: YEAH, I BELIEVE THAT THE NUMBERS ARE PROBABLY SOMEWHERE BETWEEN FIVE AND TEN MILLION.

Glover: WHERE DO YOU GET THE MONEY?

Kreiman: FRANKLY, THE BEST WAY TO GET THE MONEY IS TO INVEST IN COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS NOW. THERE ARE 350 PEOPLE SITTING IN OUR PRISON SYSTEMS AT $25,000 PER YEAR WHO THE PAROLE BOARD IS READY TO RELEASE, HAS SAID THAT THEY'RE READY TO GET OUT. BUT THEY'RE STAYING IN THERE AT THAT HIGH COST BECAUSE WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH PROBATION OFFICERS. WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS TO TAKE CARE OF THOSE PEOPLE. FRANKLY, IF WE CAN TAKE CARE OF THOSE PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE AT A MUCH CHEAPER RATE, THEN WE CAN TAKE THESE SEXUAL PREDATORS AND WE CAN KEEP THEM IN PRISON LONGER, PROTECT SOCIETY A LITTLE BIT BETTER WITHOUT BUILDING A NEW PRISON.

Yepsen: SENATOR KREIMAN, THE STATE BUDGET IS $5 BILLION. STATE TAX REVENUES WILL GO UP BY 6 PERCENT THIS YEAR. ARE YOU SUGGESTING TO ME THAT THIS LEGISLATURE CAN'T FIND ANOTHER $5- TO $6 MILLION TO ENACT THESE PROGRAMS? WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN THIS?

Kreiman: I'M SUGGESTING TO YOU, DAVID, THAT WE WILL FIND THE MONEY TO ENACT THESE PROGRAMS. WE HAVE, ON THE SUBCOMMITTEE, THE COCHAIR OF THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, BOB DVORSKY. WE ALSO HAVE GENE FRAISE AND SENATOR MCKIBBEN, WHO ARE COCHAIRS OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM'S APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE. AND YOU CAN BE PRETTY WELL ASSURED THAT WHAT WE COME UP WITH AS A SUBCOMMITTEE IS GOING TO BE PAID FOR BY THE LEGISLATURE?

Yepsen: DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT SENATOR?

Larson: OH, I DO. I DO ABSOLUTELY. WHEN GOVERNMENT WAS ORIGINALLY FORMED, IT WAS FORMED WITH THE ONE PURPOSE OF PUBLIC SAFETY. THIS IS OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.

Yepsen: LET'S -- AS ROSS PEROT SAID, LET'S GET IN UNDER THE HOOD AND GO DOWN THROUGH SOME OF THESE SPECIFICS THAT YOU GENTLEMEN ARE TALKING ABOUT. SENATOR LARSON, THE FIRST ONE IS INCREASING THE PENALTIES FOR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD. SOME PROSECUTORS IN IOWA ARE WORRIED THAT IF YOU MAKE THE PENALTY TOO TOUGH, THEY WON'T BE ABLE TO GET THESE FELLOWS TO PLEA BARGAIN. SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ON INCREASING THE PENALTIES ON LASCIVIOUS AGENTS?

Larson: CORRECT. IF WE DO MOVE LASCIVIOUS ACTS TO A "C" FELONY, OR A TEN-YEAR SENTENCE, WE HAVE TO COME UP WITH A LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE THAT WOULD BE AVAILABLE. OFTENTIMES ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF THE VICTIMS IN SEX OFFENSE CASES ARE CHILDREN, AND OFTENTIMES THEY CAN BE SO YOUNG THAT THEY CAN'T SPEAK OR THEY'RE SO TRAUMATIZED THAT THEY CAN'T TESTIFY, WHICH MAKES IT VERY, VERY DIFFICULT TO GET A CONVICTION. THAT'S WHY A "D" FELONY OFFENSE IS NECESSARY AS A TOOL FOR THE PROSECUTORS. SOME OF THE OPTIONS WE'RE LOOKING AT IS INDECENT CONTACT WITH A CHILD. IT'S CURRENTLY AN AGGRAVATED MISDEMEANOR. MOVE IT UP TO A "D" FELONY.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE SEX ABUSE REGISTRY THAT WE HAVE IN THIS STATE. THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT THAT'S AN INEFFECTIVE WAY TO TELL CITIZENS THAT A SEX ABUSER OR A CONVICTED SEX CRIMINAL IS LIVING IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MAKE THAT A REAL TOOL FOR CITIZENS?

Larson: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I THANK THE HOUSE FOR SENDING US OVER HOUSE FILE 619, WHICH CONTAINED A STUDY OF THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY, ON HOW TO MAKE IT BETTER. BUT, FRANKLY, I DON'T THINK THAT THAT GOES FAR ENOUGH. I THINK THAT OUR REGISTRY CAN BE IMPROVED TODAY AT VERY LOW COST, IF ANY. FOR EXAMPLE, THERE IS NO REASON WHY THAT REGISTRY -- YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO TYPE IN YOUR ADDRESS AND GET A PRINTOUT, A MAP OF WHERE THE SEX OFFENDERS LIVE AROUND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. YOU CAN'T DO THAT NOW UNDER THE IOWA REGISTRY. RIGHT NOW UNDER THE IOWA REGISTRY, YOU CANNOT -- THERE'S NOT A LINK TO THE CRIME THAT THEY COMMITTED. SO LASCIVIOUS ACTS, IT'S DOWN THERE ON THE PAGE, BUT NOBODY HAS A CLUE WHAT IT IS. SO ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS PUT IN A LINK TO THE CODE AND A LINK FOR A COMMON-SENSE EXPLANATION OF WHAT THAT LAW IS.

Glover: DOES THE LEGISLATURE HAVE TO ACT TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN?

Kreiman: I THINK IT MIGHT BE WISE FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO DEMAND THAT BE DONE.

Larson: WELL, AND THE CREATION OF A TASK FORCE IS GOING TO HELP ADDRESS THAT BY BRINGING SHARP MINDS TOGETHER TO ASSIST.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, YOU KNOW, I KEEP HEARING THIS: WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? I MEAN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS IN LEGISLATION. THE REGISTRY IS ONE TOOL A PARENT HAS, BUT IS THERE ANYTHING THE LEGISLATURE CAN DO TO MAKE PARENTS BE BETTER PARENTS?

Larson: I THINK IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO ENACT A LAW TO REQUIRE PEOPLE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR LIVES. EVERYTHING THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT ENACTING, WHETHER IT BE A THOUSAND-FOOT SETBACK, THE REGISTRY, WHAT NOT, ALL OF THOSE ARE GOOD TOOLS. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS, FAMILIES ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET ON THE INTERNET OR CHECK THE NEWSPAPERS FOR WHERE THE SEX OFFENDERS LIVE, AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL WITH THEIR CHILDREN.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT ALL THOSE IOWANS THAT DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET? THIS IS A RURAL STATE. A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. A LOT OF POOR PEOPLE DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO FOR THOSE PEOPLE?

Larson: CORRECT. AND HOUSE FILE 619 DID REQUIRE THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY PUBLISH THE NAME AND ADDRESSES OF THE SEX OFFENDERS ON A COUNTY-BY-COUNTY BASIS ON A QUARTERLY BASIS.

Borg: SENATOR KREIMAN, YOU MENTIONED EARLIER, EITHER YOU OR SENATOR LARSON, ABOUT DNA SAMPLES AND A MORE UNIVERSAL COLLECTION. OF WHAT VALUE IS THAT? ISN'T IT JUST TO FIND AND IDENTIFY SOMEONE WHO MIGHT HAVE CONVICTED OR BEEN -- PERPETRATED THAT CRIME, NOT CONVICTED OF IT YET BUT IT WOULD LEAD TO CONVICTION PERHAPS, BUT IT WOULDN'T PREVENT ANYTHING, WOULD IT?

Kreiman: WELL, IT DOES HAVE THE POSSIBILITY OF PREVENTING FUTURE CRIMES. IF THESE PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEIR DNA SAMPLE HAS BEEN TAKEN, THEN MAYBE THEY WILL BE THAT MUCH LESS LIKELY TO COMMIT, YOU KNOW, MORE OFFENSES. THESE SEXUAL PREDATORS. I MEAN, WHATEVER TOOLS THAT WE CAN USE, WE NEED TO BE USING. I'M JUST ABSOLUTELY APPALLED. RIGHT NOW WE HAVE HALF OF THE SEXUAL PREDATORS GETTING OUT OF PRISON, THEIR DNA HAS NOT EVEN BEEN TAKEN. THAT IS NOT -- THAT'S NOT RIGHT.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, DO YOU THINK THAT PEOPLE WHO SEXUALLY ABUSE CHILDREN THINK ABOUT THEIR DNA BEING ON FILE SOMEWHERE?

Kreiman: I THINK AT SOME LEVEL THEY THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT THEY DO. YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW THAT THAT STOPS THEM ON ALL OCCASIONS, BUT I WOULD IMAGINE IT WOULD STOP SOME. IF IT STOPS ANY, THEN IT'S WORTH DOING.

Borg: SENATOR LARSON, TO WHOM WOULD THAT APPLY? WHO WOULD HAVE TO GIVE SAMPLES? UNDER WHAT OFFENSES?

Larson: ANYONE CONVICTED OF A FELONY AND ANYONE REQUIRED TO REGISTER ON THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY. AND BACK TO YOUR POINT, HOW IS THIS GOING TO HELP SAVE LIVES IN THE FUTURE OR PREVENT FUTURE SEX ABUSE, WE'RE GOING TO TAKE THESE PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS USING DNA TECHNOLOGY.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, ANOTHER ISSUE YOU TALKED ABOUT HERE TODAY IS A LIMIT OF THE GOOD TIME, THE EARNED TIME OFF IF AN OFFENDER REFUSES TO DO TREATMENT, AND THEN ALSO TO HAVE A PENALTY FOR PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO DO TREATMENT. HOW DOES THAT WORK?

Larson: WELL, THE WAY IT WORKS IS ESSENTIALLY UNDER IOWA LAW IF YOU'RE IN PRISON, FOR EVERY DAY THAT YOU DON'T GET IN TROUBLE, YOU GET A DAY KNOCKED OFF YOUR SENTENCE. IF YOU FAIL TO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT, YOU WILL LOSE THAT GOOD TIME AND YOU WILL END UP ESSENTIALLY SITTING IN PRISON FOR THE ENTIRE SENTENCE. SO WITH LASCIVIOUS ACTS AS AN EXAMPLE, IF WE DO INCREASE THAT TO A TEN-YEAR SENTENCE, THEY'LL SIT THERE FOR TEN YEARS.

Yepsen: SENATOR KREIMAN, I HEAR THIS FROM EXPERTS: A LOT OF TREATMENT DOESN'T WORK. SO WHY ARE WE PUTTING ALL THIS EFFORT INTO WORRYING ABOUT TREATMENT OF PEOPLE WHEN THESE CHAPS ARE SO SICK THAT THERE'S NO TREATMENT THAT'S GOING TO WORK?

Kreiman: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I'VE BEEN SURPRISED WITH IS -- AGAIN, DISCUSSING THE TESTIMONY THAT THE SUBCOMMITTEE HAS RECEIVED -- IS THE RELATIVE SUCCESS OF SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT. WE HAVE RATES -- AND I DON'T BELIEVE THAT THEY'RE NECESSARILY TRUE -- FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS THAT SAY THAT YOU HAVE A REPEAT OFFENDER RATE OF SEX OFFENDERS OF ONLY 2.34 PERCENT. NOW, THE TREATMENT PEOPLE OUTSIDE WILL TELL YOU THAT IT'S SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER BUT STILL LESS THAN 50 PERCENT. SO MAYBE TREATMENT DOES WORK.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, THERE'S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT SUPERVISION OF THESE PEOPLE AFTER THEY COME OUT OF PRISON. THERE HAVE BEEN PROPOSALS: HAVE IT FOR A COUPLE YEARS; SENATOR KREIMAN WANTS TO DO IT FOR A LIFETIME. WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SUPERVISING THESE PEOPLE? ARE THEY ON PAROLE?

Larson: IT'S ESSENTIALLY LIKE PAROLE, ABSOLUTELY, WHERE A DEPARTMENT -- A COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTION OFFICIAL WOULD REQUIRE THEM TO COME IN ONCE A WEEK. THEY GO THROUGH GROUP COUNSELING, THERAPY, WHAT NOT. AND THE DIRECTORS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS THAT I HAVE VISITED WITH HAVE SAID THAT THEY DO HAVE MUCH, MUCH BETTER SUCCESS IF THEY'RE IN A CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT, IF THEY'RE MEETING WITH A GROUP, IF THEY KNOW THAT THEY'RE BEING WATCHED. IT HELPS ENSURE THAT THEY DON'T REOFFEND.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, YOUR PROPOSAL TO HAVE LIFETIME SUPERVISION, HOW MUCH WOULD THAT COST? ISN'T THAT RATHER EXPENSIVE?

Kreiman: IS IT EXPENSIVE? IT'S, AGAIN, WITHIN THAT $5- TO $10-MILLION COST OF THIS BILL.

Glover: THAT'S INCLUDED IN THAT.

Kreiman: THAT'S INCLUDED IN THAT. IS IT WORTH IT? SURE, IT'S WORTH IT.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, I READ IN THE "NEW YORK TIMES" WHERE FLORIDA REQUIRES SEX OFFENDERS TO PUT A SIGN IN THEIR YARD, REQUIRES THEM TO DISTRIBUTE HAND BILLS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, REQUIRES A NOTIFICATION ON THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSE. ARE YOU CONVINCED THAT WITH ALL THE THINGS YOU'RE DOING HERE THAT WE AREN'T OVERLOOKING SOMETHING IN THIS STATE AND THAT THERE ARE, IN FACT, OTHER STATES DOING OTHER THINGS THAT YOU OUGHT TO BE CONSIDERING?

Larson: WE HAVE NOT CONSIDERED THOSE OPTIONS RIGHT NOW --

Glover: WHY NOT?

Larson: -- THE FOUR MAIN PIECES. FIRST, DAVE, YOU BROUGHT IT TO OUR ATTENTION. WE'RE COLLECTING RECOMMENDATIONS AND WE'VE BEEN WORKING CLOSELY WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT ON THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS AND THESE ARE THE FOUR TOP RECOMMENDATIONS WE HAVE.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR KREIMAN, MIKE RAISED THE QUESTION EARLIER, ARE WE ACTING TOO QUICKLY BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IN ALL THIS HASTE, YOU MAY DO SOMETHING WRONG. MY QUESTION TO YOU IS ARE YOU ACTING TOO QUICKLY THAT YOU MAY OVERLOOK SOMETHING THAT SOME OTHER STATE OR COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS DOING WITH THESE OFFENDERS THAT WOULD IN FACT PROTECT IOWANS AND OUGHT TO BE A PART OF THIS BILL?

Kreiman: YOU KNOW, DAVID, IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, WE HAVE INCREASED SENTENCES FOR SEX OFFENDERS. WE HAVE CREATED THE CIVIL COMMITMENT PROCESS FOR SEXUAL PREDATORS. WE HAVE CREATED THE DNA DATA BASE. WE HAVE DONE THINGS IN THE PAST. WE'RE GOING TO DO THINGS THIS YEAR, AND I THINK THAT WE NEED TO CONTINUALLY LOOK AT HOW TO IMPROVE THIS SYSTEM BECAUSE, FRANKLY, WE NEED TO BETTER PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES AND OUR CHILDREN IN THIS STATE.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT THIS SETBACK THING OF A THOUSAND FEET, WHICH MEANS THAT A CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER, WHEN THEY GET OUT, CAN'T LIVE WITHIN A THOUSAND FEET OF A SCHOOL OR DAY CARE CENTER AND THINGS LIKE THAT. HOW DOES THAT PROTECT CHILDREN? I MEAN IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THAT SEX OFFENDER CAN'T LIVE A THOUSAND FEET AWAY AND SIT ACROSS THE STREET ON A PARK BENCH?

Larson: THAT IS A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM. BUT ONE OF THE BENEFITS IS THAT HE WON'T BE ON A 24-HOUR BASIS SITTING RIGHT THERE NEXT TO OUR CHILDREN. IT'S JUST -- IT'S ONE MORE TOOL THAT THE LEGISLATURE CONSIDERS TO HELP AND ASSIST IN THIS OVERALL PROBLEM.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, THE COURTS HAVE STRICKEN DOWN A PROVISION IN ANOTHER LAW THAT PROHIBITS THEM FROM LIVING WITHIN 2,000 FEET OF A SCHOOL. ARE YOU PUTTING THIS LEGISLATION AT RISK BY PUTTING THE SETBACK DISTANCE IN THERE?

Kreiman: WELL, I THINK THAT THE SETBACK IS SOMETHING THAT'S GOING TO BE CONSIDERED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE THIS WEEK. AND, YOU KNOW, PART OF THEIR DISCUSSION I'M SURE WILL BE AN OPINION BY THE COUNTY ATTORNEYS DURING THEIR TESTIMONY THAT EVEN A 1,000-SETBACK MIGHT BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL. BUT THAT, FRANKLY, IS UP TO SENATOR LARSON, SENATOR DVORSKY, AND THE SUBCOMMITTEE.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, ANOTHER ISSUE YOU'VE MENTIONED HERE TODAY IS THIS TWO STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT -- TWO STRIKES AND YOU'RE IN FOR LIFE. HOW WILL THAT WORK. HOW WILL THAT BE DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THE LAW IS NOW?

Larson: WELL, ESSENTIALLY IT'S GOING TO REQUIRE THAT YOU BE CONVICTED OF TWO SEX OFFENSES, WHETHER THAT BE LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD OR SEX ABUSE 2ND, SEX ABUSE 3RD. THERE ARE LIMITED CASES, A THIRD OFFENSE OF LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD CAN REQUIRE A LIFE SENTENCE, BUT IT'S VERY -- THE WAY THE CODE WORKS, IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFICULT TO GET.

Yepsen: SENATOR KREIMAN, LOTS OF VIEWERS ARE SITTING THERE ASKING THEMSELVES, WELL, WHY NOT LOCK THESE GUYS UP FOR LIFE THE FIRST TIME.

Kreiman: I THINK, AGAIN, ALL OF THE OPTIONS ON THE TABLE, IF YOU DO THAT THE FIRST TIME, THE QUESTION IS HOW MANY PRISONS WILL WE BE BUILDING.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, THERE'S AN ISSUE ON THE IOWA CODE NOW CALLED CHEMICAL CASTRATION THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO HAVE WORKED. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT PROPOSAL?

Kreiman: WELL, IT'S MORE THAN A PROPOSAL. IT'S THE LAW.

Glover: BUT IT'S NOT APPLIED. IT HASN'T BEEN EFFECTIVE. WHY?

Kreiman: WELL, WE TOOK TESTIMONY -- THE SUBCOMMITTEE TOOK TESTIMONY ON THAT, AND EVIDENTLY THERE'S SOME PROBLEMS WITH PHYSICIANS. AND, FRANKLY, I THINK THERE MIGHT BE SOME PROBLEMS WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS ON PUSHING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LAW. I WOULD HOPE THAT THE SUBCOMMITTEE WOULD DETERMINE IF THAT'S AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE. IF IT'S AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE, WE SHOULD BE DOING IT.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THAT?

Larson: FROM WHAT I'VE READ, THE PHYSICIANS -- THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS IS HAVING TROUBLE FINDING PHYSICIANS THAT ARE WILLING TO ADMINISTER AND PRESCRIBE THE DRUGS, WHAT NOT. IT'S A PROGRAM THAT HAS TO BE CAREFULLY MONITORED, AND THEY SIMPLY HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND ENOUGH PHYSICIANS THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF IOWA TO MANAGE IT.

Borg: SENATOR KREIMAN, AS I OPENED THIS PROGRAM, I ACKNOWLEDGED THAT EMOTIONS ARE RUNNING HIGH BECAUSE OF THE RECENT INCIDENT AND MURDER. BUT AS WE TALKED HERE, IT STRIKES ME THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT GETTING TOUGH HERE, THERE, AND THE OTHER WAY. BUT WHAT DISCUSSION WAS THERE ON PROTECTION AND CONSIDERATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS?

Kreiman: I THINK THERE'S BEEN A FAIR AMOUNT OF DISCUSSION OF CIVIL RIGHTS. BUT I THINK THAT THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN TO BE SAFE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, IN THEIR HOMES, IS PROBABLY A LOT LOUDER THAN THE CIVIL RIGHTS DISCUSSION. I THINK WHAT WE COME UP WITH IS GOING TO BE CONSISTENT WITH PEOPLE'S CIVIL RIGHTS.

Yepsen: SENATOR LARSON, WE'VE TALKED HERE TODAY ABOUT ALL THE THINGS THE LEGISLATURE IS LOOKING AT AND THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE LOOKING AT NEXT WEEK. ARE THERE THINGS THAT WE CAN BE -- THAT SOCIETY CAN BE DOING NOW THAT WE'RE NOT DOING? WHAT SHOULD PARENTS BE DOING THAT WE'RE NOT DOING? I NOTICE IN DES MOINES, THE DES MOINES COPS ARE GOING DOOR TO DOOR NOW, CHECKING ON THESE OFFENDERS. SHOULD LAW ENFORCEMENT BE DOING SOMETHING MORE?

Larson: ABSOLUTELY. LAW ENFORCEMENT IS REQUIRED TO CHECK AND VERIFY THAT THE PERSON LIVES IN THE RESIDENCE. THE PUBLIC SHOULD BE CHECKING THE INTERNET TO FIND OUT WHERE THE SEX OFFENDERS IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS LIVE: ARE THEY NEAR THE PARKS; ARE THEY NEAR THEIR SCHOOLS; KNOW WHO THEY ARE; WATCH FOR YOUR CHILDREN; TAKE AN ACTIVE, RESPONSIBLE ROLE IN THIS PROCESS.

Yepsen: AND, SENATOR KREIMAN, SHOULD SCHOOLS BE DOING MORE?

Kreiman: I THINK OUR COMMUNITIES ALL NEED TO DO MORE. I THINK THE STATE NEEDS TO DO MORE TO ASSIST COMMUNITIES AND ASSIST PARENTS IN PROTECTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES FROM SEXUAL PREDATORS. FOR EXAMPLE, THERE'S NOTHING UP ON THE WEB THAT SAYS, OKAY, PARENTS, HERE ARE SOME COMMON-SENSE THINGS THAT YOU CAN BE DOING TO BETTER PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN. WE CAN DO BETTER IN REQUIRING ACTIONS BY THE SHERIFFS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. I THINK IT'S A PROCESS.

Glover: SENATOR LARSON, AT WHAT POINT DO WE LET OUR KIDS JUST BE CHILDREN? AND TO WHAT EXTENT ARE WE TAKING AWAY THEIR CHILDHOOD BY INJECTING THE FEAR OF SEX ABUSE INTO THEIR CHILDHOOD?

Larson: WELL, I DON'T THINK WE'VE CROSSED THAT LINE WHATSOEVER, BUT THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS SUBJECT. EIGHTY PERCENT -- AS I SAID EARLIER, 80 PERCENT OF THE VICTIMS ARE CHILDREN SO WE HAVE TO TAKE A VERY ACTIVE ROLE. THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE SEX OFFENDERS, IN MY OPINION, ARE SIMPLY BROKEN. WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO FIX THEM, AND THAT'S WHY WE'VE DEVELOPED THE OPTIONS THAT WE HAVE, INCREASING THE SENTENCE TO TEN YEARS. IF 50 PERCENT OF THEM ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE TREATMENT, THEN THEY'RE GOING TO STAY IN PRISON AND I THINK THE PUBLIC AT LARGE WOULD SAY GOOD.

Glover: SENATOR KREIMAN, AND WILL THE LEGISLATURE HAVE THE WILL TO STICK WITH THIS WHEN THERE'S NOT A HORRID SEX CRIME DRIVING THEM?

Kreiman: I THINK WE'VE STUCK WITH MANY PROPOSALS IN THE PAST. I WOULD HOPE AND I HAVE CONFIDENCE THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL STICK WITH THESE. THEY WILL FUND THESE AND OUR CHILDREN AND OUR COMMUNITIES WILL BE BETTER PROTECTED.

Borg: SENATOR LARSON, YOU'RE FUELED THIS TIME BY EMOTION. IS THERE SOMETHING, THOUGH, THAT YOU DON'T THINK IS GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS TIME THAT YOU WANT TO PURSUE IN A FUTURE SESSION?

Larson: DEAN, NO, I FEEL VERY GOOD ABOUT WHAT WE'RE GOING TO PASS THIS SESSION. AND MANY OF THE ITEMS ARE ITEMS THAT WE HAVE RAISED AND PASSED IN THE PAST. FOR MANY YEARS WE HAVE BEEN CONFRONTED WITH A SENTENCING REFORM MOVEMENT, AND IT WAS LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. THAT TRAIN HAS COME TO A SCREECHING HALT. PUBLIC SAFETY IS NOW LEADING THE WAY, THANK GOODNESS.

Borg: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR BEING WITH US. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," STATEHOUSE REPORTERS GATHER AROUND THIS TABLE TO PROVIDE THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON THE 2005 LEGISLATIVE SESSION. THAT REPORTERS ROUNDTABLE AT OUR REGULAR AIRTIMES NEXT WEEK: 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

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