Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MAY 01, 2013 5:00 AM

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

The more things don’t change …

When I decided to write a letter regarding the jail initiative, I looked back to the letter I wrote on Sep. 30, 2004, to support Lonny Pulkrabek’s bid for the Sheriff’s Office. Here are excerpts from what I wrote almost nine years ago:

“Lonny has proposed new ideas for cutting down the population at the old county 52-man jail … there have been hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted transporting prisoners to other counties, paying for their housing there and enriching those counties.

“Surely it is time to try new approaches to save Johnson County tax dollars. Johnson County continues to grow, and therefore, logically, the need for more space at the jail will also grow. Whatever can be done to help lower the costs should be respected and utilized until the voters decide we need a larger and safer jail.

“Lonny Pulkrabek is a veteran of 19 years as a deputy in Johnson County and knows the problems that exist with the unsafe jail and Courthouse. I have talked personally to people concerned about safety and the lack of privacy for lawyers and their clients. You have to sit on chairs in the halls and have constant interruptions, and this interferes with attention to details, which are crucial to a proper defense.”

Back to the present … very little has changed. After all this time, it is really sad that people in such a progressive county have not seen fit to provide new facilities for the safety of the inmates, staff, and the public and to ensure a prompt trial. The county attorney and the sheriff have collaborated to provide specific programs to reduce the population of the jail, but it is impossible to correct all the limitations and problems within the current buildings.

Mary L. Larew
Iowa City resident

Lessons from Atlanta

I have followed discussions about the proposed justice center, and my concern is why so many people are focused on problems peripheral to the project.

There are many important services a justice center would offer, and those are being sidetracked. Safety of the workers and anyone else entering our Courthouse or jail is also of huge importance, but that seems not to matter to many citizens.

I formerly worked for the city of Atlanta as the director of human services before and during the 1996 Olympics. We also had decisions to make about a new jail, and we were concerned about the very real threat of terrorism. Thus, we built a jail larger than our population indicated was necessary.

That also enabled us to provide services to a population in our city that this nation has ignored and, in fact, has left to suffer on the streets in great peril. I refer to people with mental-health problems, who are arrested and jailed because of behavior caused by lack of housing and access to medications they desperately need.

Even though Iowa City doesn’t have the extent of problems we faced in Atlanta, I believe any space in a new justice center that could be set aside to serve people with those needs would be incredibly helpful. We could provide them with appropriate care and give them the ability to live their lives independently at some point.

The longer we delay approving a new justice center, the longer it will be before these types of needs can be properly addressed.

Sue Ellen Crosslea
Iowa City resident

A deputy speaks out

I’ve been a deputy at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office since 2001 and worked in the jail for more than five years. I can tell you firsthand that the need for a new jail is critical.

I can also tell you that the vast majority of the current overcrowding is not due to drug offenses, victimless crimes, and college students. What has increased is the number of violent offenders and probation/parole violators.

When the 2000 jail bond issue failed by a wide margin (25.5 percent), voters made it clear they had questions to be answered and alternatives to be pursued before approving a new jail. Since then, most of the questions have been answered, and alternatives to incarceration have been implemented. The revised project came within 4 percentage points of passing last November, and the current proposal contains even more revisions.

The work has been done. Alternatives are in place. Questions have been answered. Please vote yes on May 7.

Brad Kunkel
Iowa City resident

County caseload growing

Last fall, I wrote about how our caseloads continue to grow in what is now the fifth-most populous county in Iowa. Since last fall, we have listened to the voters and have downsized our proposal by 48 jail beds and deferred two additional court rooms planned for immediate construction. The current proposal is now even more modest and practical then before.

Those that criticize this proposal miss some salient facts: Judges do not consider jail or prison space when we decide whether to incarcerate someone. It is not legally relevant. The 6th Judicial District, which includes Johnson County, has among the lowest incarceration rates in Iowa. Existing alternative to incarceration programs are a large part of this. The needs of Johnson County’s court system will continue to grow as its population increases. This growth has resulted in another magistrate position being transferred to Johnson County to address the growing caseload. Sadly, we do not have the space in the Johnson County Courthouse to fully utilize that magistrate.

The challenges resolved by the proposed justice center will not go away if it is not approved. They will just become more expensive to taxpayers and result in more delays for litigants. I ask you to support the justice-center proposal.

Patrick R. Grady
Chief Judge, 6th Judicial District

What Workshop?

I would like to reply to Lan Samantha Chang’s editorial in the DI April 30.

Chang’s assertion that “we are lucky to live in the heart of American literature, surrounded by some of the most gifted writers in the world …” takes me by surprise.

As a lifelong resident of Iowa City, I would like to, with respect, point out to Chang that most of us “townies” are not aware of the presence of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at all. If I was standing next to the very best student in the program in line at the bank I would not know it. 

Of course, if I was standing next to a Hawkeye football player, I would know it. I’m very aware of Hawkeye football, as is anybody who grew up here in “the heart of American literature.” I am also very much aware of living within blocks of one of the best hospitals in America, as my life has been saved twice at the UIHC. I am aware of the nasty architecture of the Iowa Advanced Technology Labs, I am aware of the steam whistle from the Power Plant at 8, noon, and 5, and I am aware of the trash left on my lawn by undergrads returning from the bars on Saturday night.

The University of Iowa makes its presence known in my life in a thousand different ways, but I’m sorry, Ms. Chang, the Workshop is completely off my radar. I feel safe in saying that if by “we” you mean “residents of Iowa City,” then we do not feel lucky to share our town with your workshop. You’re welcome to be here, but we would not notice if you left.

Steve Rosse
Iowa City resident

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.