Additional space at the jail would help expedite cases

[Source: “Additional space at the jail would help expedite cases,” Press Citizen, 1 May 2013, by Jerri Allen, the executive officer of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.]

The Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, its employees and volunteers serve individuals sentenced to probation/parole. In Johnson County, staff provides community supervision to more than 1,000 adult individuals using a variety of treatment programs and monitoring methods to enhance success and promote public safety.

The sheriff’s department is a critical partner in our agency’s service delivery. Before the court can determine the sanctions to be imposed by those charged with indictable crimes or when those individuals granted probation/parole present risks that cannot be safely addressed under community supervision, they are often held in the county jail pending judicial review.

That is the long standing structure created by current Iowa Criminal Code. In our county, the practice of housing incarcerated individuals in Muscatine and Washington counties is problematic as staff has limited ability to meet with a probationer in order to address individual needs or hold educational programs.

In order to accomplish our agency’s mission, business at the courthouse has proven increasingly difficult due to increases in the numbers served and the more serious nature of crimes committed. Our personnel often wait multiple hours, in the courthouse due to docket back-log or lack of court-room space preventing them from accomplishing other important duties. Additional space would expedite cases and add security measures reflective of modern day’s concerns.

Delivering cost effective release options to those persons who may benefit from something short of a more expensive penal incarceration is our mission. Our staff is accustomed to working with individuals who have complex issues in all sorts of situations. We already use jail alternatives and diversion strategies for those individuals who pose less risk and recommend incarcerating those individuals who we feel pose the greatest community risk.

The citizens of Johnson County rely on its’ employees as well as partnering agencies, to keep them safe from the most dangerous persons. It is for these reasons; we support the Johnson County justice center bond issue.

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Jerri Allen is the executive officer of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.

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