[Source: “Vote ‘yes’ to improve space and safety,” Press Citizen, 19 April 2013, by Phil Leff]
I have practiced law in Johnson County for 50 years. The old courthouse was an integral part of my practice and initially served the population well, but eventually became stuck in time.
I am very familiar with its shortcomings. There is no security and no space to install any. Inmates appearing in court co-mingle with persons involved in non-criminal matters. Safety is a daily concern.
There is an alarming backlog of trials and hearings, because space for additional courtrooms (as well as jury rooms and attorney/client conference rooms) is just not there.
About 66 percent of the cost of the proposed Justice Center is set aside for expanding the courthouse facilities to address the needs mentioned above. In addition, it will provide sufficient space for medical treatment as well as rooms for visitors, attorney conferences and counseling services. Not to mention providing a safer environment for all who use the facility.
Only 34 percent of the total cost is earmarked for the new jail, which will be enlarged to bring the facilities into compliance with current state requirements, and making it possible to house all inmates here. That will eliminate the need and expense of housing overflow inmates in neighboring counties’ jails.
I am concerned about the wide racial disparity in justice systems, including our own. It is a nationwide problem with many causes and will not be solved by voting against the proposed justice center.
I urge you to support the bond issue by voting “yes.”