Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
Most reports and studies have no impact. But one released just this week has already resulted in a change in state policy.
Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday pointing out that prisons in five states use dogs to intimidate prisoners and roust them from their cells. One of the five, Iowa, announced Thursday -- just two days after the report came out -- that it would end the practice and use dogs only in life-threatening situations.
The governor's office concurred with the corrections department's decision. No wonder, after Abu Ghraib. But if Iowa officials were all so quick to recognize and abolish a bad policy, why did they wait to do so until news leaked out through this report?
Jean Basinger, a member of a prisoner advocacy group in Des Moines, tells the Register that she reported the use of dogs to the governor's office nearly a year ago.
"They just said, 'Well, why do you believe prisoners?'" Basinger told the paper.
Sometimes it takes a credible, outside voice to highlight a problem. An outside voice that knows how to get its claims into the media.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.