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Iowa to Close Prison Law Libraries

In February, 1999, Iowa Department of Corrections director W.L. "Kip" Kautzky announced that within the next two years all prison law libraries in Iowa would be phased out. Kautzy claimed that the state of Iowa currently spends $500,000 a year to maintain its prison law libraries.

Kautzky stated that the DOC would pay the public defenders office $150,000 to "provide legal advice and do research" for Iowa's 7,400 prisoners. Given the amount of money it is unlikely the contract will provide actual court representation. Similar contracts in other states only provide for assistance in drafting initial pleadings, once a suit is filed the prisoner is on their own with no ability to do research to actually litigate the claim.

The stated reasons for closing the prison law libraries are to save money and avoid frivolous law suits. Iowa now joins Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina and Utah, as states which do not provide law libraries for prisoners. Georgia and California have also announced plans to eliminate their prison law libraries by attrition. This is part of the trend begun by the U.S. supreme court ruling in Lewis v. Casey, 116 S.Ct. 2174 (1996) which held that law libraries are not required to ensure court access for prisoners.

Corrections Digest

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