Introduction. The Johnson County Justice Center is an online education, news, and information resource focused on local and national justice related issues. The site is currently represented by a broad group of local citizens who support sensible solutions to the critical challenges facing our local justice system. Were there to eventually be a physical facility in Johnson County to provide justice center services, this website could be used as a public outreach tool for that facility. It is being maintained with that goal in mind.
What Is a Justice Center? Because Johnson County administrators and law enforcement are acutely aware of their own pressing space and resource needs, it’s understandable that addressing these needs has become the primary focus of everyone’s attention. However, a justice center should, ideally, provide much more than just courtrooms and incarceration facilities. The chart below shows the wide variety of services and initiatives a justice center should be engaged in. Fortunately, Johnson County is already doing much in this regard. Learn more about Jail Alternatives and Community Partners.
Discussion. This evolving website is shaped by the conversations on our Facebook discussion page.
Mission. Our mission is, “Supporting local organizations and initiatives that have a positive impact on our community.” This is consistent with the Johnson County government’s commitment to local community partners. The mission of the Justice Center is served in two ways:
- Prevention. It’s no an accident that Johnson County has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world. In fact, from 2010 to 2012, the average daily jail population declined from 167 to 145.[1,2] A community of similar population might have as many as 952 people incarcerated. By investing in quality public education, awareness programs, exceptional social services, and numerous jail diversion programs, the County is able to proactively reduce crime. By empowering people and creating opportunities for education and employment, we reduce the conditions that are precursors to crime. We also have programs in place that reduce conditions that foster recidivism. As we know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This approach saves county taxpayers millions of dollars. So, one of our goals is to continue doing what’s been proven to work. Learn more about Jail Alternatives and Community Partners.
- Infrastructure. For the reasons mentioned above, our infrastructure needs are much less than if we had not invested proactively. An average community of similar size in the U.S., with as many as 952 people incarcerated, might be paying more than $50 million per year just for the cost of incarceration because they didn’t invest in prevention.[3,4] The cost of policing an average community of our size would be over $17 million per year. Once you’re spending that much on incarceration and policing, there’s no money left over for prevention – and taxpayers are understandably unwilling to give more. To remain a world leader in reducing incarceration rates, we need to ensure that justice system services are accessible, available, and equitable. This requires an ongoing investment in the maintenance of our facilities to ensure adequate space, security, and safety for members of the public, county employees, law enforcement, victims of crime, as well as those convicted of a crime or awaiting trial. This won’t happen without taxpayer support.
Current Projects. Our current projects involve volunteer efforts in the following areas.
- Discussion. Our discussion forum helps guide the content of this website. Feel free to participate.
- Featured Stories. Do you know of an inspiring story about hope and change in our community? Submit it here and we’ll share it.
- Social Impact Portfolio. We’re making an inventory of all the organizations in Johnson County that have a positive impact on our community with regard to reducing crime. While some may seem to have little to do with the justice system, all of these organizations help improve quality of life for everyone in the county. So, in this regard, all are lifted up. It’s these up-stream influences that result later on in better life choices and opportunities for everyone. Learn more about Jail Alternatives and Community Partners.
- News Gathering and Reporting. We’re gathering news from the above mentioned organizations to report on their successes, special events, and support needs. These stories appear on our Facebook page and some are featured here on the website. Relevant county government news is also reported here.
- Volunteer Support. Volunteers through the Justice Center provide various kinds of support and in-kind contributions to local organizations. For example, website hosting and design might be provided by a volunteer helping a local organization that’s having a positive impact. If your organization needs additional volunteer assistance, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
- Marketing and Promotions. As possible, we’re launching paid advertising campaigns to raise public awareness about the organizations mentioned above. If your organization needs help with promotions, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
Future Initiatives. One of our future goals is to have the support of local residents in pursuing the construction of a Justice Center facility for Johnson County that will provide a variety of justice system services to the community. Two critical needs at this time are the courthouse and jail. The Johnson County courthouse and jail are outmoded and inadequate to current needs.
- Courthouse. The Johnson County Courthouse opened in 1901 when the County’s population was 24,000. Our limited number of courtrooms and insufficient work and meeting areas are contributing to a backlog of cases waiting to begin. Space deficiencies hamper public safety and services. Insecure conditions threaten the security of staff, visitors and the public at large.
- Jail. The jail opened in 1981 with a capacity of 46 and was modified to house 92 inmates. At times, the daily census of jail inmates is between 160-200. These inadequate jail facilities result in spending $1.3 million a year to house inmates outside of Johnson County. Conditions of overcrowding are unsafe for inmates and staff. Only 2% of jail inmates are students jailed for alcohol offenses. The majority of inmates are persons awaiting trial for serious offenses.
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