[Source: “Do the right thing on justice center,” Press Citizen, 5 May 2013, by Jim McCarragher]
The $43.5 million bond issue in Tuesday’s election is a public safety issue. It proposes a secure justice center combining the sheriff’s office, jail and court-related offices, all attached to the existing Johnson County Courthouse.
Our historic courthouse and county jail are outdated to the extent they represent a threat to public safety, security, access to justice, and the ability to provide services to meet the current needs — let alone future needs — of Johnson County citizens.
The courthouse also suffers from space issues that delays justice and increases costs in the judicial process. The courtrooms are too small and too few, private meeting rooms for mediation, lawyer-client conferences and multiple jury deliberations are lacking.
The Johnson County Jail, built in 1981, has a totally different but equally important set of concerns. Currently separated from the courthouse, it was built for an inmate capacity of 46, and then was later modified to accommodate 92. Yet the present average daily number of inmates ranges from 150 to 190.
That costs Johnson County taxpayers more than $1 million a year to house the overflow of inmates in other jails in other counties. The crowded conditions, daily movement of inmates to and from the jail, and other deficiencies all increase risk of potential harm to the public and law enforcement officers.
This is the right time to do the right thing.
About the Author. Jim McCarragher of Coralville, an attorney, is a member of the Yes for Justice group.