Incarceration rate lower than average

[Source: “Incarceration rate lower than average,” Press Citizen, 3 May 2013, by Greg Johnson]

I believe that many in our community have the misperception that Johnson County tends to lock up more people than most other counties. In fact, we have one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation. We’re also well below the national average in racial disparity, according to The Sentencing Project.

According to data from the International Center for Prison Studies, for a county population of our size, the national average is about 930 people incarcerated. Even if we look at the lower number of jail-only populations, the average would be about 313 people incarcerated.

According to the 2012 Johnson County Sheriff’s Annual Report, our average incarceration rate was 145 in 2012.

Considering our growing county population and increasing national incarceration rates, why are we among the nation’s best? Because we have numerous jail alternative and diversion programs as well as initiatives to reduce recidivism for those who are already in jail.

Despite our low incarceration rate, at times our demand is as high as 200. So, the wonderful programs we have to offer (in the jail facility and elsewhere in our community) are only accessible to 92 inmates — our current jail’s capacity. That’s a tragedy that puts our overflow at greater risk of recidivism.

A “no” vote on Tuesday will limit the positive impact of our diversion programs, limit inmate access to legal services, and continue to send inmates away from family.

Please vote “yes” for the justice center.

Greg Johnson

Iowa City

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Categories: Commentary, Endorsement


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