[Source: “County Dems support justice center bond,” Press Citizen, 30 April 2013, by Mike Carberry]
Johnson County desperately needs to upgrade the quality of our justice infrastructure. We need a justice center that is safe, disability-accessible and secure on both sides of the judicial bench. We do not have this now. We are one of the fastest growing counties in Iowa and one of the most politically progressive, but our historic courthouse and 30-year-old jail is no longer adequate.
Courthouse security needs include a secure entrance, which can separate inmates from the general public, jurors, employees, judges and others. We also need a second entrance/exit accessible for people with disabilities and a building compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Johnson County is well represented with forward-looking officials who have pointed out that our lack of space has impeded jail alternatives. These programs are an essential aspect of the progressive quality of our justice system.
These behavioral health services for those in need of mental health, substance abuse treatment and in-custody services are important parts of our county justice system. They help reduce recidivism, expedite cases and lower the jail population. The county wants to add parenting classes and GED programs, but without extra space, that’s impossible.
County officials say the justice center also would offer more space for inmates to meet with attorneys and visitors, an inmate library and adequate medical and recreation facilities. Less inmate transportation would improve the quality of legal help for defendants.
There is no reason to delay these much-needed improvements. Interest rates are at an all-time low, building costs will only increase. Sooner rather than later we will have to upgrade our justice facilities. It is most cost effective to do this now.
On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Johnson County Democratic Party, I am urging county voters to vote “yes” on or before Tuesday’s justice center special election
Mike Carberry is chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party.