BY KIM BATES
On Sept. 1, 2018, Iowa Public Radio published an article about a six-year-old lawsuit in Sioux City, IA based on keeping sex offenders confined even after they’ve served their full sentence. Nine men convicted of sex crimes have filed lawsuits against the state of Iowa for being placed in an Iowa mental health unit prior to their release from prison.
Iowa’s Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders is a legal process that places sex offenders in involuntary confinement prior to finishing a prison sentence. Offenders are ordered by a judge to a mental health institute if they are deemed “risky to society.” In September of 2012, patients challenged the morality behind Iowa’s Civil Commitment. Patients claimed that the counseling, meant for rehabilitating them into society, was “inadequate.”
Drake students share their thoughts on this confinement.
“I don’t even know where I morally stand on that … People can change, but there is a line that needs to be drawn and when you cross that line you can’t really go back … this is filled with gray area,” said first-year Austin Ash.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett dismissed the case, telling Iowa Public Radio he needs to “follow precedent.”
Minnesota and Missouri have both challenged and changed their Civil Commitment Laws.
Earlier this month, the Des Moines Register released an article that revealed those previously convicted of sexual assault are able to volunteer at Iowa Schools K-12. Iowa Code 670.2 forbids schools from releasing the background checks or information of said volunteers, and so Iowa parents may not know who is volunteering at their child’s school.
“It’s a little shocking to me that schools would allow felons to be involved with the students, just because you have such good interactions with the students while you’re in the classroom,” said Kelly Bruhn, an associate dean and professor of the journalism school at Drake University. She has three kids, one being in kindergarten and one is in first grade. Bruhn volunteers often at her children’s school.
“I certainly feel like I’m supervised there, and the teacher has control over the things I do and say with the students … but it would make me nervous to know my daughters were interacting with someone who, maybe, didn’t have a clean background,” Bruhn said.
According to the Iowa Sex Offender Registry there are 5,499 registrants accounted for in Iowa, with the entire population of Iowa reaching 3.146 million according to 2017 findings. In Polk County, there are 742 sex offenders in the population of 467,711 (U.S. Census Bureau., 2015.). In Sioux City, IA there are 304 sex offenders in the population of 102,782 (U.S. Census Bureau., 2015.)
On the Drake University website, Drake Public Safety released an article titled “Know the Law” where they mention the registry. The article discusses alcohol/drugs, sexual abuse, property damage, weapons and the Sex Offender Registry. Below, in a section from the article regarding the Sex Offender Registry, they state a warning.
“The information on the Iowa Sex Offender website and the information available to the Des Moines Police Department may be inaccurate, out of date and/or incomplete. Reporting to the registry is voluntary on the part of sex offenders. In addition, budget constraints have prevented the sex offender registry from being kept up to date.”