History of Legislation:


Sentencing reform is moving in Iowa in 2017! A new bill, HF 579, was introduced by Iowa Rep. Zach Nunn (R, District 30), and was passed unanimously by the Iowa House of Representatives on March 20, 2017. Next, the bill goes to Iowa’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve the bill before it can be voted on by the full Senate. Read our press release about the House vote on HF 579 here.

FAMM supports HF 579. The bill, if passed, would make 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. The parole board would review each person individually and decide who is released and when.
  2. Creating a new “standard sentence” rule that permits courts to give sentences other than the mandatory minimum when the mandatory sentence is unjust and not needed to keep the public safe. There are 41 offenses that judges cannot apply this rule to. This reform is not retroactive.
  3. Creating a new rule allowing judges to reconsider a person’s sentence for a Class A or B felony after the person has served one year 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.
  4. Narrowing Iowa’s outdated disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.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 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 HF 579 here.

Bill Status: HF 579 has cleared the first two hurdles to becoming law: it was passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee on March 2, 2017, and passed unanimously by the full House on March 20, 2017. Next, it needs to be passed by the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, then the full Iowa Senate, and finally, signed by the governor. FAMM is working hard to pass this bill before Iowa’s legislative session ends on April 28, 2017.

Resources and Factsheets:

What the Bill Does: HF 579 Summary

Faith and Freedom Coalition Letter supporting HF 579 

Conservative 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:

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 »

February 22, 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 »

February 21, 2017

HF 377: A Safe, Smart, Cost-Saving Way to Reform Iowa Sentencing Laws

HF 377 Sponsor: Rep. Zach Nunn (R, District 30)   Summary of Sections: Sections 1, 2, and 3: These sections narrow the disparity between the drug weights for crack and powder cocaine drug trafficking offenses in section 124.401. The current quantities create a disparate ratio of 10-to-1. The bill enhances fairness by changing that ratio… Read more »

February 8, 2017

Shirley Schmitt: “She Never Sold a Single Ounce for Profit”

Shirley is serving a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for her role in a methamphetamine conspiracy – which never sold a single ounce of the drug for profit and was only created to feed her addiction.   For more than 50 years, Shirley Schmitt lived a quiet, serene life, raising her daughter and training horses on an… Read more »