Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | OCTOBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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Vote no on justice center

Deciding on how to vote on the new justice center was not a cut-and-dried issue for me. My concern was that the existing jail is in poor condition and increasingly inhumane and that local law enforcement was showing no signs of not trying to keep it constantly full. Shipping inmates to other jails is expensive and fiscally irresponsible.

In the end, however, I have decided to vote no on the new facility based on this simple fact — we do not need to keep filling the jail.

What we need to look at is the number of people we are putting in jail for victimless crimes. Drug- and alcohol-related crimes in which there is no violence, property damage or theft involved account for a large part of our jail population. As a city proud to be progress-minded, we need to rethink punishments for victimless crimes, if they are even necessary at all.

A large part of what law enforcement does is not a benefit to the community; it feeds an endless cycle of crime. We should consider alternatives to police for minor issues. Mediators and other assistants would prove far more helpful in many cases. We need to explore new policies together as a community to end the cycle that creates crime in the long run.

Let’s remodel the existing jail and discuss how we can create a more enlightened approach to social problems. It is the progressive and fiscally responsible thing to do. No new jail.

Joshua Scott Hotchkin

Vote yes on justice center

There are many safety, security, and space concerns about Johnson County’s existing Courthouse and Jail that make the proposed justice center a critical ballot issue in the upcoming November election.

Concerns include safety risks for deputies and inmates caused by crowded jail conditions, no way to provide secure Courthouse entrances, and insufficient space and design in Courthouse to keep prisoners separated from general public.

As a volunteer with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, I’m convinced the Board of Supervisors used a thoughtful and open process in developing plans for the proposed justice center.  

The cost has been pared down from an original $72 million to the up to $46 million bond request. It’s been done by eliminating noncritical space and applying $1.3 million in county reserves, and now represents the absolute minimum for providing a safe, secure, and functional justice center.

The resulting property-tax impact for county residents would be $24.59 per $100,000 of property-assessed value per year for 20 years.

This is the right plan and the right time to approve this bond issue, while interest rates are at an all-time low and current safety, security, and space issues only get worse over time.

In addition, the more than $1 million now being spent annually to house prisoners in other counties would stay in our county.  

Keep in mind those in jail are presumed innocent until proven guilty, yet they don’t have timely access to legal representation when they’re in jails in other counties.  

Vote “yes” for justice.

Larry T. Wilson
Iowa City resident

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