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NAACP against new Scott County Juvenile Detention Center; calls for an audit by Department of Human Rights

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 11:27 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - During a Tuesday morning press conference the NAAP, Davenport chapter called on the Iowa Department of Human Rights to conduct an audit into the Scott County juvenile justice system in response to the county’s proposal to build a newer, larger detention center.

Speakers at the conference said the new center would increase what they say are already blatant racial disparities in the system.

“These are not juvenile offenders. These are children, citizens, and future adults,” said Revered Rich Hendricks during his presentation at the NAACP conference, where he called the proposed center a “perversion of justice.”

To support claims of racial disparity in the county, some statistics were shared by the organization during the conference. However, there was some confusion as to the whether some numbers were correct. For example, the NAACP said that the Scott County Board of Administrators proposed the new center to have a 60 bed maximum.

However, the number that has been proposed by the county is a 40 bed maximum, with the possibility of an expansion to 60 beds in the future if it were needed.

TV6 Investigates spoke with Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane to clarify the confusion in numbers. “The agreed upon space is 40 beds, but 40 beds does not mean 40 juveniles, it means 40 beds,” said Lane, “I’ll be the first to say that I will probably never see that facility be 60 beds in my lifetime.”

Another concern that was stated during the conference was based on a statistic, from a Sentencing Project research report given in 2007-2008, which concluded that Iowa was the number one state in the country for incarcerating black people. However, research conducted by TV6 Investigates found that the most recent report by the Sentencing Project concluded that Wisconsin is the number one state in the nation for black incarceration, while Iowa sits at number six.

Furthermore, it was mentioned at the conference by the NAACP that Scott County has the highest proportion of racial disparity in the state of Iowa when it comes to incarceration. After searching the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center’s website, TV6 Investigates found that in 2020′s annual report, black juveniles made up for 70 percent of the center’s population, while white juveniles made up just 18 percent.

According to the Iowa Department of Human Rights, there are 2,578 juveniles who identify as African American in Scott County, while 13, 397 identify as Caucasian.

TV6 asked Sheriff Lane about the disparity in the system. “That is a very tough question to answer, why there is a large racial disparity in the juvenile system right now, right here locally in Scott County,” answered Lane.

While he acknowledged the high rates of incarcerated juveniles in the system, he says that the county also has a problem with more serious crimes amongst juveniles, such as violence and vehicle theft. The new center, he says, is designed to keep the juveniles safe through enough space for separation.

“There is a higher amount of violence in juvenile detention centers than in adult detention centers,” said Lane, “we need to protect kids in a detention facility. They need to be safe there.”

However, the NAACP argues that the way to help Scott County youth is not through a larger detention center.

“It will be a shallow victory for Davenport, Iowa, to be known for the biggest detention facility in the state,” argued Margie Mejia-Carabello, the Vice President for the Progressive Action of Common Good.

Instead, speakers at the conference urged that the funds set aside to build the new detention center should be re-allocated to helping communities most affected by disparity.

“We suggest the county use the funds they’ve already allocated, and invest in community restoration programs to the areas mostly affected by Scott County disparities,” said Avery Pearl, a volunteer for Project Renewal.

The date to vote for the decision to build--or not to build--the new detention center has yet to be determined.

Until then, community members, leaders, organizations and city officials will continue to debate which solution is best for our children.

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