New Pool of Officials?

March 12, 2018

Jim Bice is an Iowa high school basketball official who also works as a corrections officer. He has come up with a new idea for addressing the shortage of officials in the state, which is to train prisoners serving sentences for non-violent crimes as possible candidates.

According to the Des Moines Register, Bice often watches the inmates' pick-up basketball games, and provides advice on foul calls. He said some inmates know the rules quite well, and he hoped they could become officials once they are released from prison.

"They have a lot of potential," Bice said.

Bice said that asking whether inmates with criminal records could be trusted to officiate games was a “good question.” He is currently offering guidance to any inmates who wished to become officials. 

"They’re not bad kids," he said. "I guess I have a lot of confidence in people."

Iowa's shortage of officials is caused by several factors, such as greater demands' on officials time, scheduling conflicts with officials' jobs and hostility from fans. Joel Oswald, who has served as an official in Central Iowa since 1998 and is one of the main assignors for the state, said that if there are not enough referees, games could be canceled.

"It seems to get harder (to staff games) every year," he said. "We’re trending in the wrong direction."

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