Prison alternatives needed for mentally ill

Prison alternatives needed for mentally ill

Gazette Column
Saturday’s column provided a closer look at a Johnson County criminal case involving a 29-year-old man on the autism spectrum who is facing 45 years in prison for crimes related to his obsession with a former girlfriend. When the man is sentenced to prison later this month — and there is little reason to believe he will not be sent to prison — he will join the ranks of some 8,000 Iowans who live behind bars. Of those inmates, according to the latest annual report by the Department of Corrections, about 47 percent have a mental health diagnosis for a chronic condition. Within that percentage are seven other individuals who share the Johnson County man’s diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. While the most common diagnosis among inmates is substance abuse disorders and depression, the report…
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Owning the political conversation

Owning the political conversation

Gazette Column
If feedback on my “caucus countdown” column is any indication, there is a lot of interest not only for a wider field of potential 2016 presidential candidates, but for the nation to have a broad conversation regarding the future of money in politics, the overall economy and, specifically, the middle class. And, as is usually the case, there is significant disagreement on how such conversations can be generated and spread. [caption id="attachment_216" align="alignright" width="300"] Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrates on election night. (Elizabeth Warren/Flickr)[/caption] There is some thought a strong third party candidate on the left or right would be able to leverage the most influence; that those within either of the two large parties will be unable to rise above the star power of high-profile candidates. Some have pointed…
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Work flexibility a win-win

Work flexibility a win-win

Gazette Column
Is it too soon to suggest what the Iowa Legislature should discuss in its next session? If you, like me, think it isn’t, then I propose we ask our lawmakers to stop squabbling over equal pay and minimum-wage hikes (at least for now) and turn their eyes toward Vermont. As of January, Vermont business owners are required by law to consider worker requests for flexibility such as job sharing, working from home or alternative schedules. The law protects the workers making such requests from retaliation. It is essentially a legally protected conversation that can have a tremendous impact on single parents, those tasked with caring for an elderly relative or families stretched thin due to child care costs. While the idea is fairly unique in the United States, several European…
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Discretion isn’t carte blanche

Discretion isn’t carte blanche

Gazette Column
Recently, I was reminded why the wheels of the private sector and government spin at different speeds. As aggravating and frustrating as the slow turn of government wheels can be, their reduced pace allows for thoughtful discussion and input from all facets of society, which will ultimately need to live and function under the laws and policies. Because we understand the system to be deliberate and, at times, imperfect, society has tolerated and even encouraged public servants to use discretion when fulfilling their duties. This is especially true at all levels of the justice system because of the unequaled impact those officials have on individuals and communities. Within our communities, we want the public servants closest to the particulars of any given situation or incident to use their best judgment…
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The women are coming?

The women are coming?

Gazette Column
More than half of the state’s population is female, yet women hold less than 25 percent of legislative seats in Iowa. While we have seen a trend of female lieutenant governors, no woman has been elected to live in Terrace Hill or to serve on behalf of Iowans in Congress. Yet if we are to believe the latest research on why women are underrepresented at each level of government, blame for the gap falls primarily on the shoulders of women themselves. Once a woman takes the plunge into politics, she is statistically just as likely as any male counterpart to emerge victorious. The reason more women don’t serve, researchers say, is because most stand on the diving platform and refuse to jump. According to a 2013 research study, there are…
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What Stephen Bloom is missing about Iowa

What Stephen Bloom is missing about Iowa

Various
A Southern transplant to the Hawkeye State explains the fuss over his article, and the Iowa rules he broke. CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Last week, as I was entering a strip-mall clothing boutique, I held the door for a woman I didn't know. She did a little trot to arrive at the door a fraction of a second earlier, expressed her thanks and then erupted in laughter. In answer to my raised eyebrows she explained: "We had family from Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays and they kept asking us, 'Why does everyone here hold the door for everyone else?' I told them that holding doors was just nice and a part of who we are. We like to do little things like that for each other. It's just respectful." I…
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