Feb 12, 2024 - News

Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham helps marijuana offenders stay out of jail

Kimberly Graham passing out food

Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham at Senior Fest. Photo: Courtesy of Polk County Attorney's Office

Last month marked Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham's first full year in office.

Why it matters: Graham represents a new era for the Polk County Attorney's Office following John Sarcone's 32-year tenure.

  • She campaigned on improving racial and income disparities in prosecutions, as well as diversion programs for juveniles.

Driving the news: Axios chatted with Graham about her first year and what she envisions for the future.

What's new: A marijuana diversion program.

State of play: One of Graham's priorities was ending prosecutions of low-level marijuana possessions.

  • The first offense is considered a misdemeanor — punishable by up to six months of jail and a $1,000 fine.

Zoom in: Graham created a new program that dismisses a suspect's first-offense charge if they get a substance use evaluation and complete any treatment recommendations.

What they're saying: "I would have preferred not to prosecute these crimes at all because we have a lot of other things that are higher priorities in my opinion in this office," Graham says.

Between the lines: The program complies with state law, however and helps offenders avoid big fines and a criminal record.

  • 237 people completed the program in its first nine months and their charges were dismissed.

The big picture: In Iowa, Black people make up 4% of the population but are 7.3 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges and 11 times more likely to be incarcerated than white Iowans, according to the Register.

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