Supportive of justice center, yet voting ‘no’

[Source: “Supportive of justice center, yet voting ‘no’,” Press Citizen, 25 April 2013]

As distasteful as it is for me to be in favor of a larger jail, I support the justice center proposal. Yet, I will be voting “no” on May 7.

Let me explain.

I support those incarcerated having greater physical access to their families, attorneys and a variety of services that the jail provides and could provide in the future. I support having more courtrooms so that those in jail while awaiting trial will have quicker access to the justice system. I support a safer environment for prisoners, courthouse staff, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, students and the general public.

At a hearing of an anti-abortion protester who wanted the state to execute me as a murderer, I had to share a table with him because there was not a larger courtroom available. Through this experience, I acquired a visceral understanding of the need for larger courtrooms and enhanced security in our courthouse.

I get all this and support the infrastructure plan.

But I cannot vote for this until a different kind of plan is integrated into the design for building expansion and improvements.

I cannot vote “yes” until a process has been instigated to decrease our rate of disproportionate minority contact by local law enforcement. Those in support of the justice center say we shouldn’t hold the infrastructure hostage to this vital work. I beg to differ.

This is some of the hardest work a community could ever embark upon.

A “yes” vote is the perfect thing to withhold until a more concerted plan to decrease disproportionate minority contact is in place. Having a statement that indicates decreasing disproportionate minority contact is important and that something will happen someday by some means is too vague and hollow for me.

Confronting a racially biased system is extraordinarily hard work that cannot be left to faith in a generalized statement of intent. Until there is a public commitment on the part of all law enforcement agencies in our county, a time frame and an outline of a plan to assess, quantify, and make plans for systemic and personal change, I cannot lend my voice towards this much needed infrastructure.

If we give in to the needs of the short term before fixing these larger, deeper, harder issues, what will ever force us to confront our racially biased systems?

We would not see results of such a process for years. Therefore, I would not withhold my “yes” vote until we see results, as some may argue. What I am voicing is a cry for a concerted and genuine plan that has dates for reviewing metrics and making adjustments to the plan as we see how it plays out in reality. This is serious and necessary for our community to accomplish—no matter what the results May 7.

The individuals who make up the DMC statistics are the ones being held hostage if we don’t engage in this work. Please vote “no” until we have such a plan in place.

Karen Kubby is a member of the Press-Citizen’s Writers’ Group and lives in the Mark Twain neighborhood.

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Categories: Commentary, Endorsement

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