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.
From 2008 through 2013 to date, the special response team of the Iowa City Police Department was called out 28 times. More than half of these callouts (15) had warrants to search for drugs.
In 2011, the ICPD confiscated seven dosage units of LSD, one-half ounce of methamphetamine, 10 ounces of cocaine, 1 ounce of crack cocaine, 1.3 ounces of heroin, 56 dosage units of Ecstasy, one-quarter ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, 1,427 prescription drugs, and 38 pounds of marijuana, which is equivalent to about 152 four-ounce bags of weed. Twelve percent of UI graduates leave school with a marijuana conviction charge.
My head spins trying to fathom reasons why groups of heavily armed police need to search for small quantities of drugs. Such police units are best used for situations such as what occurred in the Boston area.
Johnson County has an opportunity Tuesday to be a leader in making changes in the way this country imprisons people by voting “no” to the proposed $40-plus million jail and justice center.