The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2019

Five years ago, I started taking stock of my most labor-intensive posts near the end of each year. Not all of these are my favorite projects, though invariably, some of my favorites end up on these compilations.

Before getting to the countdown for 2019, I want to give another shout out to guest authors who poured an extraordinary amount of work into two posts Bleeding Heartland published last year.

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Fighting city hall on the state level

Exclusive reporting by Marty Ryan on his efforts to hold the Iowa Board of Corrections accountable for failing to follow state law. -promoted by Laura Belin

“You can’t fight city hall,” the saying goes. It means you may get more gratification from beating your head against a wall than from fighting with government bureaucratic processes.

I have fought city hall, but I think I can count the successes on one finger. My recent challenge to secure a win for common sense was beat back last month when the Iowa Public Information Board dismissed the complaint I had filed against the Iowa Board of Corrections in July.

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How the Iowa Department of Corrections is addressing racial disparities

Iowa has long had one of the country’s worst racial disparities in the criminal justice system. A 2016 report by Ashley Nellis for The Sentencing Project showed the incarceration rate for African Americans in Iowa was the fourth-highest among the 50 states, with approximately one in seventeen adult black males imprisoned. Iowa ranked third-worst in the nation for racial disparity, with an incarceration rate for African Americans eleven times higher than the rate for white people.

Over the past year, the Iowa Department of Corrections has formally recognized the problem and its responsibility to provide a bias-free environment for incarcerated individuals and those in community-based corrections programs. The department has also taken several concrete steps to improve staff training and identify possible sources of racial disparities.

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