The new Faulkner County Justice Building has brought modern-era security to the local courts system, providing peace of mind for those who keep the wheels of justice turning.
"It is head and shoulders above the old building," said Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson. "It’s the difference between a Model Ford and a Cadillac. The old one was built in ’36 or ’38. It’s not designed for what court is now. Over the years they’ve tried to retrofit it, but it just can’t carry the load.
"We have a single point of entry. Everyone has more room. I haven’t measured, but I think there’s more room on this floor than in the entire other building."
The first security feature — the ground floor’s single point of entry — leads to a metal detector and full-time staff from the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, who politely ask each visitor what their business is. Plenty of places in the building are off-limits to the general public and can only be accessed by the staff with an electronic ID badge. For their protection, they have secure parking and secure elevators that take them directly to the secure areas behind the courtrooms on each floor. Courtrooms are equipped with security cameras, which are monitored from a control room by FCSO personnel.
Judge’s offices have multiple layers of security. They are located in hallways behind doors that can only be accessed with electronic ID badges, and they are also equipped with security cameras that allow the occupants to see anyone wanting to enter the office.
Additionally, all security surrounding prisoners being brought to and from court has been improved dramatically at the justice building. Instead of being paraded in through the public in their shackles, prisoners will be brought in through secure elevators and made to wait in holding cells in an area connecting to the courtrooms.
Clawson said, "Our facilities transport prisoners without bringing them through the crowd, without the risk of someone handing them something, or someone trying to hurt them, or them trying to hurt somebody."
He added each courtroom has a waiting area, giving the public a place to wait their turn in court, which decreases the numbers in the courtroom, which also helps with security.
He added, "It’s comfortable. The heat and air works. It doesn’t leak. When we started moving in last week, the movers went into my office (at the old building) to get my desk, and it was raining. Water was running down the wall in sheets. We got out just in time."
Attorney Frank Shaw said of the new building, "This is a new, modern building with adequate security and space for people to wait. There was no security to speak of before. The courtrooms seem to be well-designed. It’s serious business that goes on in there, and there needs to be a certain level of dignity that goes with that. This is a quality building that carries dignity and respect."
Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said, "The courts have been spread out across several buildings, so it’s good to have them in one building. It’s a much more secure environment. The cameras and security system are current technology."
A dedication of the building was scheduled for this month, but it has been postponed out of respect for the victims of the April 27 tornadoes, Dodson said. The date of the dedication will be announced later.
(Rachel Parker Dickerson may be reached at 501-505-1236 or email@example.com)