Johnson County voters turn down justice center once again - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Johnson County voters turn down justice center once again; 54% vote yes

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Johnson County voters have turned down a proposed justice center once again. Johnson County voters have turned down a proposed justice center once again.
IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

Johnson County voters have turned down a proposed justice center once again.

The proposal had 54 percent of the voters' support, but needed 60 percent of votes in order to pass.

"People are just anti-jail," said Lonny Pulkrabek, Johnson County Sheriff. "We tried to emphasize the jail was only 34 percent of this project. People just don't like building jails."

It was a $43.5 million bond question at stake. The money would have been used to build a 195-bed jail and expand the current Johnson County Courthouse.

Opponents said there were bigger problems in Iowa City that were leading to such a crowded jail.

"The arrest rate has just been soaring since we built the old jail and it's mostly a problem with the Iowa City Police Department, so is the racial disparity problem," said Jeff Cox of the Vote No Justice Center Group.

The new justice center would have addressed security and space concerns at the current jail and the courthouse.

Back in November, 56 percent of voters approved a slightly larger justice center proposal, falling just short of the required 60 percent super majority needed.

Whether voters will head to the polls again is up to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

"We still have a job to do and we're still going to do that," said Pulkrabek. "If they decide to take this forward again sometime down the row, then we'll address it then. But until then we continue to ship that taxpayer money outside the county."

Justice center opponents say they'd like to sit down with local law enforcement to figure out a different way to address issues in Johnson County.

"There are people being arrested who shouldn't be arrested," said Cox.

Johnson County's jail currently has 92 beds but averages 165 inmates per day. The county pays more than $1 million per year to house inmates in other counties.

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