Greg Johnson – Personal Update 201405

Personal Update 201405 | 30 May 2014 | Friday

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Greetings,

If we’re not already connected on Facebook, please visit my new Facebook page and click Like.

During the month of May, I’ve been doing more with photography. Just about every week, I’ve been uploading my favorite photos. My photo collection for May 24-30 are mostly from a trip to the Des Moines Zoo and downtown area, as well as some photos from my early morning walks. Previous photo collections are also available for viewing online.

Most of my online content this past month has been related to reporting on our two Johnson County Attorney candidates as well as maintaining the Johnson County Justice Center website and Facebook page.

For those following current justice issues and trends, our County Attorney candidates are interesting and inspiring. For an overview you can read my article on the candidates and issues. As you may know, there’s a big push nationally to establish collaborative data-driven outcomes-based approaches to justice services. So, it’s an interesting time to be following developments in justice reform. In addition to marijuana legalization, and clemency programs, leadership are advocating retroactive discretion. The FBI is considering the loosening of their employment policy to allow the hiring of marijuana users. The White House and Justice Department are planning to release thousands of crack cocaine users from prisons nation-wide.

Our current County Attorney, Janet Lyness, has worked with local law enforcement, education administrators, and dozens of “upstream” youth-serving agencies to see if we can reduce undesirable future outcomes (such as crime, arrest, and incarceration) by creating opportunities and support networks for at-risk-youth and their families. Youth involved with programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters are 46% less likely to use illegal drugs. It’s not surprising then, that overall, mentoring programs have been shown to reduce violent crime by 44%. This preventative approach seems to be working and costing far less than paying for incarcerating people. Johnson County now has one of the lowest incarceration rates on the planet. Given the U.S. average for incarceration, a county of similar size might have over 900 people incarcerated on any given day, our daily average of 127 is an accomplishment. At a recent community forum, education administrators, law enforcement officials, and those involved in juvenile justice discussed the desire to have at-risk youth connected directly to the services and support they need while skipping past any criminal charges when problems arise. The current workflow includes the costly and resource draining process of giving kids a permanent criminal record before connecting them to the services that help get them out of trouble. This new approach would correct or prevent issues without the criminal justice system being involved.

While we’ve managed to become a world leader in reducing incarceration rates, we’re unfortunately continuing to experience some of the same racial disparity issues as many other areas, and in fact we’re the worst in the nation when it comes to racial bias outcomes. On June 4, 2013, the findings of a national ACLU study concluded that Iowa is the worst state in the nation when it comes to racial bias. The press release stated: “A Black Person in Iowa Is More Than 8 Times as Likely to be Arrested for Possession Than a White Person, Despite Equal Usage Rates.” That’s not exactly what we want our state to be known for. John Zimmerman is running for the County Attorney position with a desire to address racial disparity as well as other issues (economic disparity, pretrial detention, victimless offenses, etc.). Zimmerman has decades of experience in social justice, has served as a pastor, and now has a law degree. His campaign Facebook page has about 3,000 likes which is impressive, considering that most local candidates in an election might have a few hundred likes.

You can read more about these and other issues on the JCJusticeCenter.com website.

I’ve been providing website support for some local non-profit groups, including the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.

Given how busy I was with other projects, this past month I only posted a few articles on the Iowa City Technology Services website. See under Recent Posts on that site.

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

~ Greg

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Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began as a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways, health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

2 thoughts on “Greg Johnson – Personal Update 201405

  1. I have a question, Greg: How do they know there are “equal usage rates?” If they are not catching an equal number of people of various races using? Are they just assuming that all people in all racial groups use drugs? Is this the only thing people are incarcerated for in Iowa?

    1. I believe someone conducted an anonymous study/survey to learn more about people’s usage. A separate study was done to examine those who are arrested. The presumption is that policing is more intensive for people of color. There’s a lot of criticism of police regarding racial bias in the system. Some say the police don’t have much influence because they are just responding to 911 calls without regard to race. Others say the police are aggressively policing certain neighborhoods and using racial profiling when pulling people over and searching cars. Here’s a video gives a fairly comprehensive review of the challenges: http://wp.me/p2DTd2-1gH. In summary, some people believe that racial bias begins in schools (K-12) where youth of color are more likely to get disciplined or expelled. So, perhaps the teachers are to blame. Yet, the teachers would probably defend themselves and say that it’s the parents who are influencing youth behavior. If kids are coming to school with weapons or drugs, the school teachers can’t just ignore it. It’s kind of a vicious circle. So, the most forward looking planning seems to be found in that video link above. Basically, if kids are fighting, bringing drugs to school, talking back to teachers, being belligerent, and doing other things they might have been expelled for, don’t kick them out of school (that raises the likelihood of ending up in the juvenile justice system), instead get them back to being focused on their studies and provide them with any additional help needed (with substance abuse help, mentoring, or counseling on other issues). Bottom line is that we need to stop the cycle somewhere and it’s easiest in the school setting. It would be interesting to see a similar study done on other areas of justice and society to see if racial bias exists elsewhere. That might tell us if there is racial bias with other arrests/citations.

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