[Source: “Laws should be changed, but justice center is needed,” Press Citizen, 1 May 2013, by Bob Welsh, chairman of the Johnson County Task Force on Aging.]
Racial disparity and the incarceration of non-violent criminals in our jail are valid but separate issues that will not be addressed by the May justice center vote. The reasons for racial disparity are being explored, and I am confident will be addressed by the county regardless of the May vote.
The incarceration of non-violent criminals is related to the laws on the books. Although many of these laws need to be changed, the May vote will not change any laws.
The justice center vote, I believe, should be decided not on these two issues, but on what is the most civil and efficient way of dealing with those who have broken the law as it now stands. The conditions in the jail and courthouse are neither civil nor efficient. Those incarcerated are often separated from their support system because they are transported out of the county due to the lack of room in our present facility.
In addition, there is not room for many services that can assist inmates. Proper security is not available for the inmates, the employees, the witnesses, jurors and judges or public. We can do better. The newly designed jail will enable more efficiency in managing the jail and courthouse.
It will enable us to stop paying for our inmates being housed elsewhere. The newly designed court spaces will enable cases to be handled more expeditiously. Thus, I am convinced it is in the best interest of all the citizens of Johnson County to vote “yes” for the justice center.
We need to make sure that all persons are treated equally. We need, as citizens, to change the laws, but this is not something that the sheriff, county attorney or Board of Supervisors can do.
This is a matter that must be addressed by our state and federal elected officials.
About the Author. Bob Welsh is chairman of the Johnson County Task Force on Aging.