Nearly two years after ICE came to town, trauma still haunts these Iowa families

Editor’s note: This story was produced with support from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship and by the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism. Luis bent over his front porch, one knee on a piece of plywood as he muscled an old hand saw through a cut in the wood on a warm day in early February. He was repairing a section of flooring in the small white house he shares with three other men on a quiet street in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.The cuts became more challenging as the saw caught in the wood. Luis, whose name has been changed for anonymity,  shook his head and said he once owned newer power tools that would make the job much easier.

Top Iowa health official knew of plans for ‘sexual preoccupation’ study at state-run institution for Iowans with disabilities, emails show

A top health official for the state of Iowa knew of plans for a “sexual preoccupation” study at a state-run institution for people with severe disabilities well before federal officials began investigating the facility late last year, according to newly released emails. Rick Shults, the mental health and disability services administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Services, approved a software request on May 21, 2018, for studies on patients at the Glenwood Resource Center and on patients who are part of a state-run program for sexual offenders, according to emails DHS provided to the Des Moines Register as part of a records request. “Nice write up,” Shults wrote in response to the request. “Yes, I approve. Please keep the justification and my approval should questions arise later.” The newly released emails show, for the first time, how far back top state officials knew about plans for human experimentation at the center, which houses some of the most vulnerable Iowans.

Reynolds resists calls for emergency action to restore felon voting rights after Iowa scraps felon voter database

Iowa has halted its use of an error-ridden database intended to stop people convicted of felonies from voting, while state officials check the accuracy of its more than 100,000 entries. But the anticipated 11-month gap while the database is being rebuilt has created another concern among some of Iowa’s 99 county auditors: how to quickly verify voter eligibility before the Feb. 3 caucuses and the June 2 primaries. 

Auditors’ inability to verify eligibility against a database could mean felons may illegally register to vote or cast a ballot without being aware they are committing a crime. The additional confusion prompted renewed calls Thursday for Gov. Kim Reynolds to take emergency action to restore felon voter rights, most likely through an executive order. “The governor just needs to buck it up,” Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said.

Evans: A Teacher Has A Lesson From The ER For All Of Us

Schools across Iowa have been dark for more than a week because of winter vacation. But a Des Moines teacher still managed to teach a very important lesson during that time – but this lesson wasn’t aimed at the kids she normally works with. It was intended for adults. Laura’s lesson is one more people should learn from, because the discussions in Washington, D.C., and at the Capitol in Des Moines would benefit from a wider appreciation and understanding of what she was telling us. Randy Evans
STRAY THOUGHTS
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.