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Sides Clash, Agree As Johnson County Justice Center Debate Heats Up

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Both supporters and opponents of the Johnson County Justice Center appear to have found common ground just two weeks before voters decide on the $43.5 million bond issue.

"One of the things that is kind of interesting is that the supervisors and the folks who oppose a new justice center seem to want the same things," Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said. "It's just that we're for a new center and they're not."

Both sides say their goal through their respective campaigns is to reduce the amount of people in jail. County officials argue they'll be able to more effectively do that with more space for diversion programs, some of which are already in place at the current jail.

"If we can get [offenders] needs met before they leave jail and get them stabilized, then certainly there is going to be a better chance they're not coming back to jail," said Jessica Peckover, Johnson County Jail Alternatives Coordinator.

Opponents of the justice center argue that local police departments will fill the 195-bed facility.

"One of the things we hear from voters often is that if they build it they will fill it, so that's how the community feels," said Sean Curtin, a member of the Vote No campaign.

Voters go to the polls May 7. Around one thousand ballots have already been cast through early voting, which started earlier this month. The bond issue needs a super majority to pass.

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