History of Legislation:


Sentencing reform has been passed by the Iowa Legislature and is awaiting signature by the governor! 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. Read our press release about the passage of SF 445 here.

FAMM supports SF 445. The bill includes several of the reforms that were previously in a different bill FAMM supported, HF 579, but which did not pass through both houses of the Iowa Legislature. SF 445 is expected to be signed into law by Republican Governor Terry Branstad on May 10, 2017. 

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 would be retroactive, meaning about 200 Class C drug offenders currently in Iowa prisons would 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 Narrowing Iowa’s outdated disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. Currently, it takes 10 times as much powder as crack cocaine to get the same sentence. Under the bill, it would only take 2.5 times as much powder as crack cocaine. This would bring Iowa closer into line with crack sentencing in the rest of the states and make crack sentences much fairer.

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

Bill Status: SF 445 has been passed by both houses of the Iowa Legislature and now must be signed by Governor Terry Branstad before it becomes law. We expect Governor Branstad to sign the bill on May 10, 2017. 

Resources and Factsheets:

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

Iowa’s Current Mandatory Minimum Laws (updated Jan. 23, 2017)

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:

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 »

March 30, 2017

Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill Clears Committee, Goes to Senate for Vote

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lani Prunés 202.621.5066 The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee today approved HF 579, sending the bipartisan sentencing reform bill to the full Senate for a vote. The Iowa House of Representatives passed the bill unanimously on March 20. The bill enjoys broad support from across the ideological spectrum, including conservative organizations like… Read more »

March 28, 2017

Conservative Support Grows for Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lani Prunés 202.621.5066 Conservative Support Grows for Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition latest to endorse House-passed legislation that awaits Senate approval Des Moines, Iowa – The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition is the latest conservative-oriented organization to throw its support behind sentencing reform legislation, HF 579, that… Read more »

March 20, 2017

New Iowa State Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Unanimously, Goes to Senate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lani Prunes 202-822-6700    New Iowa Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Unanimously, Goes to Senate             Today the Iowa House of Representatives voted to pass HF 579, a new sentencing reform bill that would build on the successful reforms implemented last year. The bill was passed unanimously and gained broad… Read more »