The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing portions of Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:
The Legislature wrapped up the 2021 session by taking steps to address years of inadequate funding for Iowa’s prisons and public safety, which has had increasingly dangerous and tragic consequences. The Governor signed the bill into law June 8.
The bulk of the increase will go to:
* Department of Corrections (increase of more than $20 million). This will allow prisons and community-based corrections to invest in improvements to keep staff, facilities and communities safe. This long-overdue funding will help bring under control the escalating violence in our prisons that led to the murder of nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland by two inmates attempting to escape the Anamosa State Penitentiary in March.
* Department of Public Safety (increase of more than $10.5 million). This will allow the Division of Criminal Investigation and State Patrol to fill critical positions and help pay for much-needed public safety equipment.
In addition, we’ll see more resources devoted to:
* Processing the state’s backlog of rape kits and bringing perpetrators to justice.
* Fighting cyber-crime through a new bureau that will investigate Internet or computer-related crimes, including child exploitation, data stealing and much more.
* Helping surviving family members of the Department of Corrections employees killed in the line of duty. A new Survivor Benefits Fund will use lottery revenue to continue health insurance coverage for the surviving spouse and children. This is one small token we can offer the McFarland and Schulte families for their loss.
This legislation is a step toward safer communities for all Iowans and safer workplaces for those who take on some of society’s most difficult jobs.
Thank you to all who spoke up and made it clear that Iowa citizens, victims, and corrections and public safety workers deserve better. You insisted that Iowa put more taxpayer dollars to work where they were desperately needed. That funding increase will enhance justice and safety for all of us.