Iowa’s NAACP leadership joined together Tuesday morning to discuss with the public why they feel a new youth detention center in Scott County would be harmful.
Speakers at the press conference, which took place at Davenport’s MLK Interpretative Center, began by discussing the disproportiante incarceration of young people of color in the state of Iowa.
“African Americans in Iowa were nearly 9 times as likely as their white peers to be committed to facilities such as detention centers, residential treatment centers, group homes, and youth prisons,” a local leader said. “Scott County appears to be driving much of this state wide disparity.”
Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews who visited the Quad Cities from Des Moines, used the time to call for systemic change in the criminal justice system as a whole.
“We’re not gonna change this unless we look to this system — this system is broken,” Andrews said.
The Iowa Department of Human Rights recommended a 24-bed facility — the one proposed for Scott County would hold 40-60.
While some members of the community are opposing the Scott County Board of Supervisors’ decision to use COVID relief money towards this center, not every member of the board favors the plan. Supervisor Ken Croken said he believes the money would be better used elsewhere.
“Dollars intended to provide economic stabilization to families and businesses struggling as a result nothing says economic recovery like a bigger jail right folks,” Croken said at the conference.
Supervisors who support the idea say it will reduce taxes for residents.
“The purpose here is to help take money from federal and use them to help reduce taxes for the citizens of Scott County,” Scott County Supervisor Ken Beck said.
Scott County residents question the decision themselves, saying they would prefer the money have a direct benefit to those recovering from the pandemic.
“Spending the money on people and families and on things that will help them is a much more better investment in this community, we just haven’t done it, but we have an opportunity to do it.” a Scott County resident who attended the conference said.
An advocate for the Quad Cities community youth, Avery Pearl, spoke on why he feels constructing the new center, which would be the largest juvenile detention center in the state of Iowa, could hurt future generations.
“One of the proposed building sites is directly across from a program where we instill hope and options into our students,” Pearl said.