I began practicing law in Iowa City in 1959. During the next 50 years, I was, of necessity, in the Johnson County Courthouse frequently.
In its early years, the beautiful old (1901) building met Johnson County’s needs with one judge, one courtroom, one jury room and office for the clerk of court. But as our county population increased (about 24,000 in 1900 to more than 130,000 now), so did the number of criminal and civil lawsuits, probate and other legal proceedings.
Those space needs were only partially met by moving some non-judicial departments to off-site locations. But more serious is inadequate security and safety within the courthouse. For instance, structural limitations make it impossible to install modern screening equipment at entrances, making the potential for danger ever-present. Anyone is able to enter the building armed with weapons and intentions for harm.
Just as that growth places increased demands and concerns on the courthouse, so has it also on the county jail. Maximum capacity for inmates is 92, compared with the average number of inmates per day between 160 and 200. The resulting overflow is transported to other counties with available space, at a cost of $1.3 million annually for Johnson County taxpayers.
The proposed justice center significantly alleviates concerns for security, safety and space. And with bonding interest rates at their lowest, now is the time to vote “yes” for the justice center.
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