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Kuntz: Reevaluate the jail proposal

BY KATIE KUNTZ | NOVEMBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Too few voters approved the Johnson County justice center, and now, local officials and planners must debate and devise a new plan to address the many shortcomings of the current Courthouse and Jail.

Officials should make quick decisions to alleviate some of the pressures on the facilities. They must also alter the justice-center proposal so that it is more fiscally responsible and sensible for the demands of this community.

To pass the referendum, at least 60 percent of Johnson County voters had to vote yes for the justice center, and only 56 percent did, as reported by The Daily Iowan.

For some officials, that the majority of voters did approve the justice center shows that maybe the plans do not need re-evaluation.

As advocates, including members of the Board of Supervisors, believe that only minor changes and more public-awareness campaigns will be enough to build a version of the justice center in the near future.

However, voters made up their minds last week.

While many approve of the justice center as planned, the rest of Johnson County voted no, and their objections should be addressed.

The strongest objections were regarding the Jail, more so than plans for renovating the Courthouse.
Among objections to the Jail, voters voiced concern that a new jail would be too large, too expensive, and too likely to ignore current social problems that lead to overcrowding, such as the overnight incarceration of those arrested for alcohol- and drug-related crimes.

A new plan should include a considerably smaller price tag with fewer beds to ensure that the jail is sensible for the demands of this county.

Last year, 77.8 percent of the inmates stayed for an average of a single day. This number could be easily be reduced by enacting a cite-and-release system rather than formal incarceration overnight.

There are many solutions to the overcrowding of the Jail, but the justice-center proposal did not have enough support. Voters may soon be willing to consider a different plan, but only if it is more financially responsible and offers alternative solutions to incarceration.


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