I seriously do not know what the anti-Authority/anti-Justice people think that they have gained? The police are going to continue arresting people at the same rate they are now. The only thing they accomplished is guarantee that those arrested will be shipped like cattle to other counties. That those working and visiting the courthouse will be faced with substantial delays, inefficiencies and dangers. Inmates will face obstacles in obtaining their legal representation, visits from family members and be housed in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. The Sheriff’s department will continue to operate in a dated and well-worn space. We will continue to send our tax dollars to these other counties, the courthouse will continue to be too small and crowded and unsafe.
The vote no folks had numerous opportunities to take a tour of the jail and courthouse. They saw the pictures. Many of them even admitted that both facilities needed to be updated, just ‘not as big or expensive’.
In 1977 Johnson County tried to pass a 6 Million dollar bond to remodel, update, and expand the Courthouse. The bond failed to pass. Had it been granted, it is safe to say that the issues that haunt us today would have been avoided. In 1979 Johnson County was also in need of a new jail, as the old one could only house 30. However, once again due to the liberal mind set and lack of vision of our Community, they too balked at building a large 150 bed facility and only approved a 42 Bed Jail. At the time, that was all that was needed. However, just a few short years later Johnson County’s population surged. Due to the need, they double bunked the cells to create the 92 facility we have today. This caused a natural stress, as the facility was not designed for that many. The Jail and its staff endued, but finally reached a breaking point and had to start shipping inmates to other counties at tax payer expense. Benton, Linn, Muscatine and Washington Counties used the funds they charged to build large and modern facilities. Again, it is safe to say that if the jail had been allowed to expand to 150 beds in 1979 we would not have the issues today. In 2000, 2012 and 2013 Johnson County again tried to pass a bond to construct a much needed jail and Courthouse, but voters rejected it, again.
The opponents have voiced several reasons over the years.
1. “A larger jail will only cause the police to arrest more people” – “Build it and they will fill it”
The jail does not have a vacancy/no vacancy sign. The police will continue to arrest people when they commit crimes. They do not call the jail first to see if there are any beds available.
2. “A larger jail will result in more student arrests” – “12% of Iowa Students leave Iowa with a criminal record”
The source of this statistic has been asked for and never provided. It is believed that this number includes young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 who receive PAULA citations and who are never even brought to the jail. (They get a ticket) Also, the police do not keep track of who is, and who is not a student. This claim is used to instill fear in the student population and attempt to manipulate them into voting against.
3. “A larger jail will result in an even larger disproportionate number of minorities being arrested”
Not only is this statement not true, it is insulting. Yes, there are a larger number of minorities arrested. This is a Nationwide issue, not one confined to Johnson County. A socio-economic and educational issue that DOES need to be addressed. But the Jail and the Courthouse have NOTHING to do with who is, and who is not arrested. The police arrest those who commit crimes, period. Blatantly calling all police officers racists is irresponsible and offensive.
4. “Prison Industrial Complex”
This entire argument is idiotic, as the jail does not earn cash/profit. THERE ARE NO PRIVATE PRISONS IN IOWA! Iowa code prohibits it. Some say that the County wants to have a larger jail so that they could start housing inmates from other counties. Really? From where? Linn, Muscatine, Benton and Washington counties have jails that are much larger than they need. If Johnson County stopped sending them inmates, they would practically sit empty. Federal Inmates? Apparently people seem to be oblivious to the fact that IMCC Oakdale, which is a State Prison facility between Coralville and North Liberty houses Federal Inmates, but usually only in a holdover/overnight capacity. With the exception of the large ICE raid in Marshaltown a few years ago, Federal inmates are seldom housed in State and County facilities with the exception of holds and detainers until transported to the ICE center in Omaha.
5. “The jail is full of non-violent and drug offenders”
This has been repeatedly proven to be false. Are there a large number of drug related arrests? Yes. But they are seldom held at the jail for long periods of time. Johnson County has made great strides in diversionary and alternative sentencing programs. Yet pro-drug, or marijuana legalization activists truly believe that a small jail will stop the police from arresting drug users. As long as drugs are outlawed, the police will make arrests, regardless of the size of a jail.
6. “Update the Courthouse, but not a jail.” – “Expand the current jail”
Since both need to be updated, It’s only logical to have the Courthouse and the Jail in the same complex. There was an opportunity to expand the Courthouse in 1977, but since then the progress in the surrounding area adjacent to the Courthouse makes that difficult. The current jail cannot just “have another level” or expand into the parking lot. The cost and space limitations would end up costing more than it was worth. Not to mention that the Courthouse and Jail are not ADA compliant or meet current fire codes.
7. “TSA Style Security”
I’m not sure who said this first, but it’s a bit of an exaggeration. Right now security at the courthouse consists of a Deputy sitting at a desk in a small and crowded lobby. That’s it. Increased security would result in secured entrances for employees and a manned checkpoint for visitors that would include a metal detector. Grade Schools around our nation have better security than our Courthouse does! At a public forum for the proposed Justice Center at the courthouse a few months ago a well meaning, but clueless girl got up to speak and said it was all “fear mongering”. As she was at the microphone she said that she had no fear of being harmed while standing there. Well, considering that it looked like about 25% of the people in that room were either off duty/retired officers and County employees and that 100% of everyone was there by choice, her statement was ignorant of the World we live in. I doubt that she would have felt the same way if she was in a crowded, highly charged and emotional room with both the accused and victims family members at a criminal trial. Or perhaps, a heated divorce trial where one or both participants may not be thinking rationally. IMCC Oakdale transports convicted criminals, murderers and rapists to the courthouse on a regular basis for trials and appeals. I have lost count how many times in our Country when this resulted in a violent ambush/escape.
8. “Johnson County Taxes are too high as it is!”
I happen to agree with this. But the projected cost was about $22 for every assessed $100,000 property value. To the average person, say a $200,000 homeowner, the cost would have been $44 a year ($3.67 a month) A very small price to pay for a project that would outlive us and be a highly visible and useful structure that would be used for years come. It’s not like the tax money was going to be used for a Nature or Bike trail, dog park or some obscure form of ‘art’. It was to be used in a way that better serves our community 365 days a year. And it would be paid for by home and property owners. Not Renters or Students living in a dorm. And certainly not from people who live out of town, or even those who live outside of Iowa. If you had looked at some of the critics of the Justice Center, you would have noticed that many are not Johnson County residents!
9. “I hate Cops and any symbol of authority”
They never said this on their brochures, but it’s pretty evident that the majority of the outspoken people who have voiced a negative opinion against the Justice Center are just your run of the mill, immature, irresponsible, anarchist types who harbor some sort of vendetta, fear, or just plain ol’ bias against the police and the court system. Yet, these are the same people who bad mouth the police when they are not there to protect them or prevent something bad from happening. Grow up.
Voting ‘No’ Against the Justice center was just irresponsible. And truthfully, when you consider that the people who will be directly affected by not having a larger Courthouse and Jail and the space needed within for programs will be the arrestees themselves. They are going to hurt the ones they claimed they wanted to protect in the first place. (The ‘innocent’ criminals) I also found John Deeth’s “who really won” commentary eye opening when we learned that “Americans for Prosperity” (AKA Koch Industries) may have been a major cash contributor for the “Vote No” folks. It does make me wonder as to who’s playing who. And, did anyone win?
This issue is not dead.