History of Legislation:


The Iowa Legislature passed a sentencing reform bill for the second straight year in 2017!  The new bill, SF 445, was passed unanimously by the Iowa House of Representatives on April 18, 2017, and unanimously passed by the Iowa Senate on March 15, 2017.  It was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad on May 10, 2017.  Read FAMM’s press release about the signing of the bill here.

What the New Law Does: SF 445 includes several of the reforms that were previously in a different Iowa bill FAMM supported, HF 579, but which did not pass through both houses of the Iowa Legislature. SF 445 makes some important reforms to Iowa’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws, including:

  1. Repealing the 20-month mandatory minimums for Class C drug offenses. This reform is retroactive, meaning about 200 Class C drug offenders currently in Iowa prisons will become parole eligible on July 1, 2017. 
  2. Creating a new rule allowing judges to reconsider and adjust a person’s sentence for a Class C or D felony any time during the first year a person is in state prison. Judges or the Department of Corrections must request reconsideration of the sentence, and the judge must notify prosecutors of the reconsideration and may have a hearing, if necessary. The judge may or may not change the original sentence, and that decision cannot be appealed.
  3. Narrowing Iowa’s outdated disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. Previously, it took 10 times as much powder as crack cocaine to get the same sentence. SF 445 increased the quantities of crack cocaine in section 124.401 so that it takes only 2.5 times as much powder as crack cocaine to get the same sentence. This brings Iowa closer into line with crack sentencing in the rest of the states and makes crack sentences much fairer.

FAMM supported SF 445 and thanks Governor Branstad and Attorney General Tom Miller for their support of sentencing reform.  We’re also grateful for the leadership of the lawmakers who championed the bill, House Majority Whip Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant), Rep. Rick Olson (D-Des Moines), House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights), Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion), Senate President Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale).

Bill Text: Read the full text of SF 445 here.

Bill Status: SF 445 is a law. 

Resources and Factsheets:

Iowa’s Current Mandatory Minimum Laws (updated May 10, 2017)

Faith and Freedom Coalition Letter supporting HF 579 

Conservative Groups Support Letter for HF 579

American Conservative Union Letter on HF 579

Factsheet: Why Iowa Needs Sentencing Reform in 2017

Factsheet: Why Iowa’s Crack Disparity Needs Reform

Testimony to Iowa House Subcommittee by FAMM’s Molly Gill in Favor of HF 579 (originally HF 377)

Testimony to Iowa House Subcommittee by Iowan Phillip Emmert in Favor of HF 579 (originally HF 377)


Iowa legislature pass HF 2064. This bill allows certain low-level drug offenders to become parole eligible after serving half of the mandatory minimum sentence currently required by law. The bill also makes some currently incarcerated drug offenders eligible for parole. The measure, approved 98-0 by the Iowa House of Representatives and 28-19 by the Iowa Senate, is expected to reduce sentences for hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders and is estimated to save more than $700,000 over the next fiscal year. The bill was signed into law by Governor Branstad on Thursday, May 12. 


   Iowa Prison Budget/Expenses: 

  • DOC budget request for FY 2017 = $387 million 
  • Average annual cost per inmate = $32,925 

   State population: 3.107 million people

   State prison population: 8,329 people (1,041 people over capacity)


How You Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform in Your State

You can do several things to work toward reforming your state’s sentencing laws – go to our get involved page to find out how.

Encourage your state lawmakers to support mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Be sure to connect with FAMM and other sentencing reformers on Facebook, Twitter, and by signing up for our email list.

Sentencing/Criminal Justice Reform Groups in this State:

December 21, 2017

FAMM Statement on the Commutation of Sholom Rubashkin’s Sentence

Contact: Rabiah Burks 202.822.6700 FAMM Statement on the Commutation of Sholom Rubashkin’s Sentence   WASHINGTON – FAMM President Kevin Ring issued the following statement today in response to President Trump’s decision to commute the federal prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin: We are pleased that President Trump used his constitutional authority to commute Mr. Rubashkin’s sentence. The… Read more »

May 16, 2017

FAMM Testimony to Iowa House Judiciary Committee on HF 377

Testimony of Molly Gill Director of Federal Legislative Affairs, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) Submitted to the Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee Considering HF 377 February 22, 2017 Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today regarding HF 377, an important sentencing reform bill that would save money, increase fairness, and protect… Read more »

May 10, 2017

FAMM Hails New Iowa Sentencing Reform Law

For Immediate Release Contact: Rabiah Burks 202-822-6700 FAMM Hails New Iowa Sentencing Reform Law Governor Signs Pro-Public Safety, Pro-Taxpayer Law That Eliminates Lowest Level Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Reduces State’s Sentencing Disparities Des Moines, Iowa – Building upon modest reforms made during 2016, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad today signed important sentencing reform legislation into… Read more »

April 19, 2017

FAMM Hails Passage of Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill

For Immediate Release Contact: Lani Prunes 202-822-6700 FAMM Hails Passage of Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill   The Iowa House early this morning unanimously approved SF 445 after adding important sentencing reform provisions that FAMM and other advocates have promoted. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, and then… Read more »