Build the justice center

[Source: “Build the justice center,” The Daily Iowan, 8 April 2013, Letter to the Editor by Judy Atkins]

For 13 years, I have been with Mediation Services of Eastern Iowa. We are a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers and professionals who mediate small-claims cases in Johnson and adjacent counties. Our job is to facilitate open dialogues between parties engaged in a conflict.

Over the years, our organization has helped many people resolve disputes, thereby freeing up court time for more serious cases. However, because of space constraints at the Courthouse, it has not always been easy to find a private space to work in. We have mediated in both hallways and break rooms when rooms were not available.

The issue of safety has also been a concern to us many times. Occasionally, there can be volatility between parties, which warrants a sheriff’s deputy to be present with us. It would be nice to know that while we are doing a service for the court system, we ourselves are not in jeopardy.

We are very fortunate that a tragic accident has not occurred, thereby leaving people to ask why a better system had not been in place. At the current time, we all use the same entrances and exits, which have no security measures in place. Inmates brought in from outside also use these same entrances.

We need better facilities for handicapped and disabled people visiting our Courthouse, too. Our current design is not conducive to either handicapped individuals called for jury duty or there for legal purposes.

While the new justice-center plan takes into account the future jail, we also need to remember that our neighbors who visit the Courthouse deserve a safe and secure building in which to conduct business. We need to think about the future of our aging Courthouse and make an investment for Johnson County now.

I urge you to vote yes in May for a better facility for Johnson County and its citizens.

Judy Atkins
Iowa City resident

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