Questions and Answers with Bob Thompson – Crime Rate and Incarceration Rates Inconsistent

Justice Equity: Is the rate of incarceration reflective of increases in crime rates?

Bob Thompson: The jail population and the crime rate don’t match up at all. The crime rate (serious crimes, “Type A” to be precise) is stable, jail population is not.[1]

Regarding diversion programs, the only existing “alternative” program they claim might not be fully utilized due to space limitations is the Mental Health Diversion program. Pertaining to that program, the only claim they make as to the inadequacy of the current jail is that “many inmates are housed out of county which creates barriers to getting inmates released through the mental health diversion program.”

This is not a 50 million dollar problem. There should be ample opportunity to accomplish mental health screening before an inmate gets a ride to Muscatine. For that matter, Muscatine provides one complementary round trip shuttle per day, so the occasional inmate housed there who requests an evaluation should be able to get here and get one.

All other programs would occur in custody. The only proposed programs that would truly be “jail alternatives” or “diversion” programs are in the list of those which “would require additional funding/resources.” NONE of those require space in the Justice Center.[2]

Without a viable plan for controlling jail population growth NOW by getting as many people out as safely possible, I’m going with John Neff’s conclusion: There’s a good possibility the new facility might be too small the day it opens.

They seem not to realize this. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to vote this down until they do what they should have done all along, and maximize use of a wide array of evidence based programs that stop or possibly reverse jail population growth.

By definition, “jail alternatives” do NOT have to occur in jail, thus they do not have to be housed in the same facility; and there’s no evidence that any “jail alternative” program cannot function without the proposed Justice Center.[3]



  1. Data and charts of crime rates for Johnson County, Iowa are provided by
  2. Editor’s Note. There may be benefits to inmates gained by having additional space to meet with family, lawyers, or other services providers.
  3. Editors Note. To the extent that those incarcerated present a flight risk or threat to society, services provided to them may be best offered in the jail. Long-term incarceration reduction through recidivism reduction programs will likely happen in the context of the jail. It’s true that prevention programs, if effective, won’t be offered in jails, but long before a person has had trouble with the law. Having a jail prevention program in a jail seems like too little too late.