Theoretically, “halfway houses” are an important part of the criminal justice system.
In Dubuque, Elm Street Residential Facility serves as a stepping-stone for those in the system who still are being punished but don’t require full incarceration. Those housed at the facility are allowed to leave for work and take on more home-like responsibilities to allow for a more gradual immersion back into residential life.
That’s the theory, anyway.
It proves frustrating, though, when that system is abused and those given this opportunity take advantage of it. It’s particularly frustrating when it happens repeatedly.
Such is the case with Christopher A. Puccio, 27, who failed to return to the correctional facility recently while on work release. OK, so that’s bound to happen on occasion, right? How about on four occasions?
In the most recent instance, Puccio was granted work-release privileges about one year after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for stabbing a man — even though he has walked away from the facility at least three prior times.
The Iowa Department of Corrections issued an alert on Jan. 21 after Puccio did not return from work to the state correctional facility.
Is it fair to the police, the county attorneys, the judges, all of whom do their part to keep the community safe from criminals, only to have them slip away so easily?
As Dubuque County Attorney C.J. May III noted, “You have to ask yourself, ‘Is this (work release) really working?’”
Not in this case, that’s certain. State corrections officials should examine the work-release system and consider barring from this privilege those who have failed to return in the past.
It’s unclear how many people are nostalgic about former highways, but if there’s a possibility of expanded tourism, we’re not complaining about touting the history of the road that long has bisected Dubuque.
Iowa recently became the first state in the country to designate its share of Historic U.S. Route 20 Auto Trail, crossing the Hawkeye State from Dubuque to Sioux City. The nonprofit Historic Route 20 Association Inc. had worked to secure the route designation since 2017, and the Iowa Department of Transportation approved it.
Nearly everyone who drives in this area has driven on “old Highway 20” at one time or another. Across the state, it covers 333 miles and goes through 35 cities, including Dubuque, Epworth, Farley, Dyersville and Manchester.
Nationwide, the old highway follows the original 1926 U.S. Route 20 and covers 3,365 miles from Boston to Newport, Ore.
Here in Dubuque, the historic start of the route is at the intersection of Locust and West Sixth streets, and the group hopes to have signage designating the way.
Local travelers cheered when U.S. 20 was converted to four lanes and getting across the state got faster. But for those willing to take the scenic route, the Route 20 Auto Trail takes visitors through many wonderful communities off the beaten path. Here’s hoping tourists can rediscover some of that small-town Iowa charm.
It’s not uncommon to hear Dubuque Community School District officials lament the decrease in state funding year over year. But this year, the conversation went beyond the usual disappointed commentary.
At a recent school board work session, district leaders discussed possible contingency plans for reducing operational costs. This wasn’t a decision-making meeting, nor did officials make specific recommendations. But the discussions indicated a greater urgency in the impact reduced state aid has had on the district.
That got district officials to contemplate reducing the number of schools in the district or selling the Dubuque Soccer Complex land.
Those moves would be significant and require much further conversation. But it’s wise for the district to look at operational efficiencies. Waiting for school aid to increase isn’t a likely path to improved finances. It’s encouraging to see board members and administrators digging into the finances now to plan for the years ahead.