Iowa Gubernatorial candidate talks criminal justice in I.C.

Iowa Gubernatorial candidate talks criminal justice in I.C.

Mitchell Schmidt, Iowa City Press-Citizen 10:01 p.m. CDT September 16, 2014

One area independent gubernatorial candidate, Jonathan Narcisse, is spending this election season focused on criminal justice in Iowa.

Narcisse, a member of the Iowa Party, spoke to a a small crowd — many of whom with his campaign — Tuesday at the Coralville Public Library, centering largely on disparities in the state’s criminal justice system.

In the public forum, titled Justice Delayed, Justice Denied, Narcisse drew attention to Iowa Department of Corrections numbers while exploring potential solutions by providing jobs, fixing the education program, creating real mental health solutions and decriminalizing marijuana charges.

“The ability to understand, forecast and offer solutions to these challenges is critical. It’s not just enough to talk about the problem,” Narcisse said. “The time has come that we must have the courage to act because the consequences from failing to act are far too devastating.”

Narcisse pointed to legalizing marijuana, both medical and recreational, as having the potential to greatly reduce the disparity in Iowa prisons.

Narcisse said he would support reducing simple marijuana possession charges from criminal to civil offenses while issuing grower’s permits — with marijuana being sold at state-operated stores and the state receiving a percentage of sales revenue to use for needed services like education and mental health.

The change would reduce the use of other drugs, bring down the number of Iowans serving prison sentences for such charges and create an economic generator for the entire state, Narcisse said.

“Sometimes you have to take positions because they’re right,” he said. “I see no real difference between smoking cigarettes, drinking whiskey and smoking pot.”

With the Iowa Party, Narcisse said the group isn’t aiming for a massive number of voters, but rather key individuals to take on uncontested incumbents in small, local elections.

“If we get one person at some point who will run for us, that’s all we need,” Narcisse said.

Nicholas Dreeszen, from West Des Moines, who was Narcisse’s lone supporter at the forum, said he greatly appreciates Narcisse’s approach to the criminal justice system.

“It’s time for a change, especially to the growing problems that we’re having as a nation with criminal justice,” Dreeszen said. “I think that his solutions that it is a multi-sided thing that we need to attack on all fronts is exactly right.”

Reach Mitchell Schmidt at maschmidt@press-citizen.com or at 887-5402.