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UISG votes to not support new Justice Center proposal

BY LAUREN COFFEY | MARCH 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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Heated debate broke out Tuesday evening in the final University of Iowa Student Government Senate meeting about the Johnson County Justice Center.

It came down to an individual count of votes, but UISG eventually voted not to endorse the controversial proposed justice center.

Last semester, UISG voted in favor of supporting the slightly larger and more expensive justice center. The original plan was put to a county vote on Nov. 6, but the proposal did not receive enough support to pass.

“Some students were concerned whether or not the jail option was necessary,” UISG Vice President Jessie Tobin said. “Jeffrey Cox, who is a [UI] professor, also came in for a presentation, and he was very persuasive in his five- to 10-minute presentation. I think students also took into consideration that it didn’t pass last time. If this building isn’t much different, they may have been concerned.”

The vote followed a presentation by Cox, who urged the students to change their opinion. Cox said he believes an increase in jail cells would inevitably lead to an increase in incarcerations, which would negatively affect UI students.

“Jobs are discriminating against people with arrest records,” he said. “Expanding a jail is a green light to continue arresting more and more students.”

Part of the plans for the justice center involves improving the Johnson County Courthouse.

Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig was not particularly concerned with the UISG’s lack of endorsement, but she hopes the public votes yes for the justice center.

“[UISG] is certainly entitled to its own opinions,” Rettig said. “I hope people realize the inmates aren’t being treated well, and the Courthouse is very dangerous. I hope the voters in the community make their own decisions deciding what they want to do.”

Rettig noted that numbers of the student voting demographic have been down in the past few years.
“I hope students vote,” she said. “The record has not been very high in the past few years. If the public does come to a conclusion to vote no on the center, I invite them to come and visit the justice center themselves.”

Metro reporter Jonathan Solis contributed to this story.


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