Vote 'no'; address disparities first

Mona Shaw, 29 April 2013  •  Comments

The decisions Johnson County makes regarding a new justice center have implications for all of Iowa. Recently the Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting same-sex marriage.

By doing so, they said this act was consistent with the county’s history of leading other Iowa counties on human rights. The county now has an opportunity to live up to that claim.

The present county plan fails to consider the human rights that are wronged in the racist and classist rates of incarceration. In fact, these weren’t considered at all until the failed vote last November.

To be a state leader in human rights the county needs a vision that transcends the quotidian response to jail over-crowding. Voting “No” on the justice center gives the county an opportunity to correct this oversight.

There are many things the county can do all by itself regardless of actions taken by the Iowa legislature or the Iowa City Police Department. They can incorporate precedents from other counties in the U.S., as well as suggestions that have been presented to them by concerned citizens.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.” The county should not let this opportunity pass to revise its plan and institutionalize infrastructure that ameliorates our national legacy of race and class oppression.

With a plan that includes a deliberate vision for justice for all, the county can prove the meme that it is the “People’s Republic of Johnson County” and truly lead Iowa.

Mona Shaw