Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham helps marijuana offenders stay out of jail
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.
- Linn County has a similar program.
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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