Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | OCTOBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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Vote yes for the justice center

I’m writing in support of the new justice center.  

I’ve read many articles and opinions about statistics with facts and figures about whether voters should approve the bond referendum for the justice center. What stands out to me is those who oppose it have no firsthand knowledge of the safety and security issues jail and Courthouse staff face every day.

How many of you have to worry if an accused murderer will attempt to escape or assault a staff member while being transported to another county for housing?  Do you ever have to break up a fight among 16 inmates being housed in a space originally designed for 8 people?  

If we had the space needed, daily trips to other counties would no longer be necessary. The new facility’s design would also help prevent altercations among inmates.

Have you ever walked through the crowded Courthouse, wondering if the person sitting in the back of the courtroom has a gun, or the angry parent whose child is being taken away by the court is going to pull a knife and attack a judge? All because the antiquated design of the 111-year-old courthouse makes it impossible to screen for those weapons.

We’ve been very lucky in Johnson County that these scenarios have not happened. If the new justice center is not approved, it’s not a matter of if but when something like that will happen.

Please flip your ballot and vote yes.

Virginia Watts

Vote yes for justice

I’ve been a deputy at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office since 2001 and worked in the jail for five years. I can tell you firsthand that need for a new jail is real. It was overcrowded then and, as we all know, still is.

I can also tell you the overcrowding is not due to drug offenses, victimless crimes, and college students. What has changed is the increase in number of violent offenders and probation/parole violators.  

In 2001, Johnson County voters made it clear they had questions to be answered and alternatives to be pursued before approving a new jail. Since then, many of the questions have been answered and alternatives to incarceration have been implemented.

But our county’s population has increased by more than 16 percent over the past 10 years — from 111,006 in 2000 to 130,882 in the 2010 Census. Unfortunately, criminal activity has also increased significantly. As a result, since 2000 we’ve sent nearly $8 million in taxes to surrounding counties to house inmates that our jail can’t accommodate.

The justice-center proposal is beneficial to Johnson County, not only because it alleviates jail overcrowding.  Our more than century-old courthouse wasn’t designed to serve our county’s current demands. The proposed expansion will provide much needed room to meet its increased demands, while providing a secure environment for everyone involved in the justice system.  

The work has been done. Alternatives are in place. Questions have been answered. Please flip the ballot and vote yes for justice.

Brad Kunkel

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