Who Is In the Johnson County Jail?

John Zimmerman, 1 October 2013  •  Comments

(Based on Monday, September 30, 2013 and not counting people just there overnight)

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Iowa City’s Strategic Plan: Make Every Young Person a Criminal

Jeff Cox, 2 June 2013  •  Comments

The City of Iowa City no doubt has a “strategic plan.” These documents usually contain a mixture of goals and methods to achieve those goals. Furthermore, they are flexible, which means that they must be updated every few years despite the chorus of groans that can be heard from the naysayers and skeptics who actually have to do the work.

To make sure that everything is up to date in Iowa City, and the strategic plan actually conforms to city policy, the city council should add a goal: “We will insure that every young person in Iowa City has a criminal record.”

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“Justice” Center name exemplifies “Newspeak”

Tom Lewis, 4 May 2013  •  Comments

The first time I heard “Justice Center” as the name being used to describe a new jail and courthouse, I immediately thought of an early scene in the box office hit, The Hunger Games. In this scene hundreds of young people march submissively toward a grotesque monolith in front of which two of them fall prey each year to a deadly bureaucratic machine. The building that casts its shadow over the impoverished community bears the deeply ironic name, “Hall of Justice.”

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County has other options for jail

Caroline Dieterle, 3 May 2013  •  Comments

Johnson County owns several houses opposite the current jail — 504, 510, 514 and 520 Capitol St., 7 Harrison St. and 4 Prentiss St.

Why aren’t those lots being used for a proposed new jail and courthouse expansion? They’re already off the tax rolls and cover a lot of ground: plenty of space to build on, and better than trying to paste a huge ugly new building onto the back of our historic courthouse.

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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.

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Vote 'no': stop local war on drugs

Carol DeProsse, 26 April 2013  •  Comments

Any resident who has been paying attention to this upcoming vote knows that Johnson County suffers from the same ills that the general American system of incarceration suffers from:

  • A disproportionate number of minorities in the prison population, most of them black.
  • Too many imprisoned for victimless crimes.
  • And too many people sitting in jail for offenses for which they are too poor to post bail, while those charged with similar crimes, but have access to financial resources, go free.

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Vote 'no'; current jail full of poor people

John Zimmerman, 17 April 2013  •  Comments

The way the authorities have handled the case of the man who beat up a woman he’d agreed to pay for sex is disturbing. (“Two face charges after payment for sex act,” April 11).

The news story reports that she received serious injuries from being choked and beaten. However, the judge set a high bond for both of them. Because the man who beat her up has access to money, he posted bond on both the prostitution and assault charges after spending only a night in jail. The injured woman, however, sat in the county jail with her injuries because she wasn’t able to post bond on the prostitution charge.

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Justice Center, Episode II: Return of the jail

Aleksey Gurtovoy, 3 April 2013  •  Comments

On Nov. 6, 2012 the voters of Johnson County defeated a public measure to fund construction of a new jail in downtown Iowa City. Named in the best traditions of doublespeak, the so-called “Justice Center” proposal would have enabled erecting a monstrous jail/courthouse conglomerate right in the heart of the city, cost the taxpayers $48.1 million, and increased the total number of jail beds to 243 — a more than two-fold increase in capacity.

The proposal had the official endorsement of Johnson County Democrats and virtually everyone else in the establishment. It also was the subject of a full-blown, six-month-long marketing campaign (sponsored largely by local attorneys, with significant contributions from the county officials themselves) that included everything from yard signs, to “grassroot” postcards, to Facebook ads.

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Don't You Dare Use the "R" Word

Jeff Cox, 1 January 2013  •  Comments

The successful campaign to defeat the new Johnson County jail produced unusual political alliances. The small Vote No committee included libertarians, Republican central committee members, Trotskyites, AARP officers, and a few aging Democrats with civil liberties sympathies. On the other side was the entire Democratic Party in Johnson County, including all local elected officials who took a position with the honorable exception of city council member Jim Throgmorton.

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Some Reasons I am Voting No to a New Jail

Amanda Murphy, 5 November 2012  •  Comments

Some reasons I am voting no for the $46.8 million jail bond referendum on the Johnson County Ballot tomorrow (aka "Justice Center"):

"[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism" (Angela Davis).
  1. A reevaluation of our definition of crime, our laws, and policies is needed before we say we need a bigger jail. If we change the criteria of who gets locked up and why, our current jail size is MORE than adequate, in terms of space.

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Come back with a jail proposal we can afford

Jeff Cox, 1 November 2012  •  Comments

Supporters of the new Johnson County jail have been unable to explain why they need to add 147 new jail cells. About 50 beds are needed to deal with jail overcrowding, which still leaves 80-100 to explain. Pro-jail advocates fail to acknowledge that incarceration rates are not merely a matter of population growth, but rest on policy decisions about how we police our community.

Arrest rates locally are soaring for University of Iowa students. Even if students only stay in jail for one night, they contribute to overcrowding as long term inmates are moved.

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Vote 'no' to this crystal palace of a justice center

Phil Hemingway, 28 October 2012  •  Comments

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has a tough sell — getting the taxpayers of Johnson County to feel sorry for lawyers and lawbreakers; and in some cases they are one and the same.

After attending a forum and hearing the sheriff's sales pitch firsthand, I’m still not sold.

Is this the only option available to us? I hardly think so.

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Too many unknown costs for Justice Center

Karen Fesler, 19 October 2012  •  Comments

Two years ago, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek visited with me about his plans to put forth a ballot initative to build a new jail. Initially I supported this concept, but not so today.

In those two years, what originally was an new jail facility has evolved into a "Justice Center" with a retrofit being done to a 111-year-old courthouse attached to a new jail facility that is built near downtown Iowa City.

The $46.8 million bond issue before the voters on Nov. 6 is for a $48.1 million proposal to build this facility.

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New jail would be much too large

Carol DeProsse, 17 October 2012  •  Comments

When you like the sheriff (and I do), it’s hard to vote against his desired new jail, but I will be voting "no" on the proposed $48.1 million jail/justice center for the following reasons. We currently house on average 160 inmates per night, in and out of county. The passage of the ballot issue would permit a multi-million dollar facility to be constructed, one that will up our capacity to house inmates by more than 1.5 times: build it and we will fill it.

Johnson County has a very high incarceration rate of blacks, who comprise roughly 5 percent of our population, but comprise about 40 percent of the jail population. No one should doubt that a jail with 243 beds will invite more race-based arrests.

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Vote 'no' to a bigger county jail

Caroline Dieterle, 16 October 2012  •  Comments

I think $48.1 million is a low-ball figure for the new jail/justice center, and the total cost will climb as construction progresses, making the $46.8 million bond issue insufficient.

The county has already done two projects that have proved to be much more costly than we were told to expect: the Joint Communications Center and the new Health and Human Services building. Additionally the TIFs in this county have resulted in small businesses, rural property owners and Iowa City residents having to pay a disproportionately large amount of the local property taxes.

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It's a jail, not a justice center

Andrew Alemao, 16 October 2012  •  Comments

Many seemingly well intentioned people have been writing letters in support of the projected $48.1 million "Justice" Center in Johnson County and many of them appear to be "progressives." Several of them have even acknowledged the already alarming racial disparity in our current jail as well as the needlessness of locking up non-violent drug offenders.

I would like to know what part of referring to a jail as a "Justice Center" and voting to fix an admittedly broken system by giving in to its demands doesn't come off to a self-affirmed "progressive" as just a little bit Orwellian?

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New jail will drag urban development

Donald Baxter, 16 October 2012  •  Comments

It's hard to make a jail pretty and there is certainly no real effort to do this with the proposed Johnson County Justice Center.

This proposed jail will be a subtraction the urban fabric of Iowa City. Iowa City wants to direct future downtown development in this general area but a big new 240 bed jail should not ever be considered a community development asset unless you want to include the opening bail bonds offices as community assets.

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New justice center needs more thought, oversight

Robert S. George, 13 October 2012  •  Comments

I encourage Iowa City Citizens to turn there ballots over and vote NO to the proposal of the bond issue of 46.8 million dollars to build a NEW Justice Building. This does not include staffing, parking, operational cost, etc. No one knows what is planned for the existing facilities nor an alternative solution to our law enforcement problems. Not may citizens even realize that there is a problem if they have not attended the short, hasten forms of educating the public by those officials responsible to the population of Johnson County.

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Turn Your Ballot Over and Vote "NO" on the Proposed New "Justice" Center

Maria Houser Conzemius, 13 October 2012  •  Comments

I'm planning to vote "NO" on the proposed new "Justice" Center Nov. 6th.

First, I can't afford a new "Justice" Center, especially an ugly monstrosity tacked onto a beautiful court house that's a "justice" center at present in name only. Our property taxes are high enough already. Our real income is declining, like that of most working and middle-class voters.

Second, after the cost overruns on the Joint Emergency Communications Center and the inefficiencies of communication following its establishment, I see no reason to reward the county's bad behavior.

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Selling a false sense of security

Martha Hampel, 11 October 2012  •  Comments

One concern among many against the proposed justice center, particularly the thousands of sexual- and physical-assault survivors in Johnson County, is the type of screening that will be implemented at the new Courthouse entrance should the bond issue pass.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has said "… what the new place would bring is the ability to do the screening process just like you’re going into an airport."

These screening procedures will be imposed on everyone who enters the building, from employees to witnesses to members of the general public.

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Reassess priorities

Mo Yacoub, 6 October 2012  •  Comments

I write this to express my concern about the project for the Johnson County Justice Center. I feel that in light of the increase in nonviolent arrests over the last several years, the increase in police-directed violence against peaceful protest, and the increase in use of for-profit prisons, the last thing Iowa City needs is an oversized place to put more nonviolent offenders behind bars, who shouldn't be in jail in the first place. I don't think it's responsible to spend over 50 million dollars (that we don't have) on the project. Furthermore, I resent the manipulative design of the building, so pretty and glass-laden, just enough to distract the public from what it really is.

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'Justice Center' brings the New Jim Crow to Johnson County

Jeff Cox, 4 October 2012  •  Comments

When Michelle Alexander’s "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" was published last year, it was discussed widely in Iowa City.

Alexander’s title pretty much says it all. The Land of the Free now is the world’s largest prison, with an incarceration rate that exceeds the most repressive regimes in the world, including China and Russia.

The increase in incarceration is driven largely by our out of control war on drugs and the victims are overwhelmingly black.

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