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Interlocked doors which should be monitored at the courthouse's controlled center should be used to monitor and secure all points of entry and exit through this perimeter.
4. In order to meet the current design standards for short-term detention areas, all ceiling systems, floors, walls, and so on should be designed to reflect this standard.
Interface Zone Security
The meeting place for the attorneys, judges, court staff, jurors, the public and those in custody, is the courtroom, otherwise known as the interface zone. Thorough staff training, sound operational procedures, and proper designs are some of the strategies for securing the courtroom. Other measures for securing the interface zone (that is, the courtroom) include:
1. Provision of appropriate separation and unobstructed view between the public, witnesses, parties, and the judge;
2. The distance between the defendants and other courtroom participants should be appropriate;
3. Provision of bullet-resistant liners within the witness box and the courtroom millwork personnel stations;
4. Both the judge's bench and the clerk's desk should be equipped with duress alarms.
5. All moveable furniture, especially those that can be easily grasped or lifted, should be fixed to the floor of the courtroom.
The "building envelop"(which consists of windows, doors, exterior walls, other openings, including the roof, and so on) is the main component of a free-standing courthouse such as the Baltimore County Courthouse. When designing the security perimeter of this courthouse, it is necessary to include devices that will not only restrict and delay unauthorized access but also to include more devices that will promptly notify security personnel whenever unauthorized entry is attempted. Other important security measures necessary for ensuring effective perimeter include:
1. Intrusion detection systems equipped with central monitoring capabilities should be installed in the doors and windows of the courthouse;
2. To protect the judges, court staff and the prisoners in the event of emergency, places of refuge where they can gather during such events should be included in the courthouse. While they are taking refuge in such places, the security personnel can then decide if evacuation of the building is required;
3. A clearly visible and identifiable security post should be integrated in the courthouse perimeter design;
4. "Off-limit" signs should be posted to the building support spaces (which include electrical, mechanical rooms, and other storage and support areas). Since mischievous people can use such areas to hide contrabands or weapons, they should be kept closed and locked using door closers and automatic locks;
5. To ensure a safe storage of exhibits, evidence, and other dangerous or valuable items, fire and burglar-resistant vaults or safes should be installed in the facility. For the storage of funds collected at child support, fine-payment areas, and other areas, a separate burglar-resistant safe should be provided.
Without a capable and well-trained security staff, procedures, equipments, and architectural security measures provided to ensure courthouse security will be meaningless. As such, the court security personnel should be appropriately trained to equip them with the capability to perform both routine and non-routine duties efficiently.
Evacuation and Other Response Procedure
1. In the event of an emergency such as bomb threats or explosion, fire alarm, a hostage situation, and so on, it is mandatory to evacuate the building completely;
2. Evacuation alarms should be provided in the building;
3. Evacuation routes, which should be as close to the nearest safe stairwell as possible, should be provided at each floor of the building;
4. Signs showing the evacuation routes, should be posted on each floor of the building;
5. During an emergency evacuation, occupants should not be allowed to use the elevator;
6. To avoid the possibility of the handicapped individual being injured, all evacuation exercise should begin with those person who do not require physical assistance.
In this document I have presented a security plan for the Baltimore County Courthouse. By implementing the contents of this plan, a safe and secure environment will be provided not only for the judges and the court staff, but also to those awaiting trial, the jurors, and the general public. In this way, the integrity of the court processes and proceedings will be protected.
Hardenbergh, Gabriel et al., The Courthouse: Planning and Design Guidelines, (Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts, 2001).
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