Early voting begins for Johnson County Justice Center - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Early voting begins for Johnson County Justice Center

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JOHNSON COUNTY (KWWL) -

Wednesday's cold, damp weather led to a slow start for early voting, but the two campaigns for a new, $43.5 million bond issue to build a Johnson County Justice Center are warming up after a recent incident.

This past week, a Johnson County inmate was charged after intentionally breaking a spork in her jail cell.

The incident has sparked comments from jail opponents who believe a larger jail will only facilitate more arrests and the overcharging of offenders.

"It does illustrate the practice of multiple charging, which creates jail overcrowding," said jail opponent Jeff Cox.

The county attorney's office dropped the charges at the request of the sheriff, who admitted his deputy made a mistake in administering the additional charge.

Jail supporters say the incident is not representative of the types of charges those in jail are facing.

"If people are going to vote against the Justice Center because of a spork, I think they're really not looking at the safety, security, and space needs of the jail," said County Attorney Janet Lyness.

The current jail, Lyness said, is overcrowded.

The new proposal would build a jail with 195 beds and have room for growth. It would also have additional court space.

"If you look at the Johnson County jail, I think you'd be surprised how many are in there for serious felonies," Lyness said. 

Opponents believe a facility should be built only to address the county's current needs.

"There are ways to solve this without building a large, new, maximum-security jail at large expense to the public," Cox said.

Early voting opportunities are available at the auditor's office.

The countywide vote is set for May 7.

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