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McElroy: Vote no on new jail

BY BENJI MCELROY | OCTOBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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With Johnson County’s current jail seeing 160 people per day despite maxing out at 92, the $46.8 million tab for a new justice center has been put on the ballot for November. Keeping in step with the rest of the country’s infatuation with incarceration, the new center will house 243 people — an increase (from 160) of 83 potential spaces that might not be entirely necessary to keep the peace.

Don’t fret, though, the surplus of beds won’t be long for the single life. Rising arrest rates suggest Iowa City police will have no issue injecting another syringe into already-Bondsian numbers.

Jeffrey Cox, the editor of Prairie Progressive and a member of Citizens for an Alternative to the New Jail, citing an increase in student arrest rates and doubling of arrest rates for marijuana offenses in the past two years, can’t avoid drawing this troubling conclusion if the proposed justice center is built: “More students will find themselves in jail.”

In our country’s (and now county’s) collective attempt to repeatedly top our own, uncontested high-score in the game of mass incarceration, we’ve managed to start a game of hot potato with Lady Justice’s blindfold that results in a systematic abuse of rights.

It’s a tried-and-true method that will inevitably result in students behind bars instead of behind textbooks.

An excessively large jail combined with already-rocketing arrest rates means trouble for students. Even the people behind the new jail’s inmate housing arithmetic can figure out who, in the city in which the nation’s No. 2 party school resides, will feel the brunt of the bloated bars firsthand.

Unfortunately for UI students, jails aren’t schools. We don’t want them filled. Vote “no” on Nov. 6.


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