Measures to enhance security in the court house

Courthouse security is meant to maintain the integrity of the judicial system by protecting the safety of all participants within and near the courthouse. The security threat could emanate from the trial participants of the case when they become emotionally charged or externally from individuals not directly participating in the court process. A comprehensive security system should be planned proactively, rather than reactively, to detect, deter, and control violence and any imminent security threats. Evaluating the threat areas in or near the courthouse can thus help to set up such a proactive system.

According to Jones (2003) the most dangerous areas in or near the courthouse are:

  • The parking areas: these are very dangerous area for the attorneys, judges, the plaintiffs, the witnesses, the jurors and the suspects as they are being brought in from cells. They face the risk of attack from snipers, terrorists through bomb attacks and assassination by lone gunmen. The attackers wait for their intended victims at the parking area before or after court proceedings.
  • Holding cells: these pose a threat to the suspects being held there as well as the security team and officers escorting the suspects to the holding cells.
  • The entrance corridors to the courts: these pose a risk to the members of public, bailiffs and security officers especially those guarding the public passage. In some courts, the suspects are also brought into the courts through the same alleys with the public; thus, they are also vulnerable.
  • Courtrooms: the individuals vulnerable to security risks in courtrooms are judges, attorneys, the suspects, plaintiffs, bailiffs as well as security officers and the public members present in the court
  • Courthouse halls and other offices located within or near courthouses such as offices of probation services are also dangerous areas. Those at risk include the complainants lodging complains with these offices, especially in civil cases, officers and employees providing various services in these areas.
  • Alleyways and walkways approaching main doors of courthouses have also been reported to be potentially dangerous areas. The vulnerable groups in this areas are the both plaintiffs and defendants as well as witnesses and possibly the relatives of trial participants.

Effective courthouse security plan is essential for the smooth running of the judicial process and for the protection of trial participants and courthouse property. Security threats are usually high especially in the trial of sensitive cases and those of immense security concern. Although, it is difficult to prevent all security threats, security can be enhanced by detecting, deterring and detaining those exhibiting violent behavior within courthouse grounds. Other initiatives would be boosting the security team in the event of high-risk scenarios.

References

Jones, T. L. (2003). Court security: a guide for post 9-11 environments. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Ltd.

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