Security in America's court facilities is essential; improving and maintaining it is a key objective of our work especially in these times of natural disasters and emergency preparedness threats. Although many recently-constructed court facilities respond to this as a design need, far fewer house effective security operations, and the majority of all courts are without either. We believe that all courts share the need for security and should meet those needs, whether or not their facilities are new. In planning security for the occupants and premises of all court facilities, we have three goals:
  • To deter security problems from occurring in the first place.
  • To detect security problems when they do occur.
  • To limit damage whenever security problems are encountered.

To that end, we developed and recommend the concept of a security system whose elements include facility planning, security personnel and operations, and technology combined in an integrated and comprehensive system.

Underlying Principles

What do we mean by the word "security" and what kinds of security problems do we anticipate?

Court security has a simple purpose: to protect the integrity of court processes and proceedings by separating the deliberations, people, and material of the courts from the passions, emotions, and intentions that bring men and women to court. It concerns the safety of everyone within the facility and the safeguarding of all property (including records, equipment, things of value, etc.) both personal and official.

  • Court security measures are instituted in the form of a security system to provide a desired level of security and ensure the propriety of court operations.
  • Security problems in court proceedings arise both from the emotional nature of the issues brought to court and from the actions of persons who are contemptuous of our system of laws and act to disrupt them.
  • The measures we use to establish an effective security system rely on certain architectural features, on the number and quality of the people assigned to the system, on their operational duties, and on technology used to amplify their capacities.

Spatial security is achieved by separating private spaces from public spaces, therefore courthouses must include public and private circulation. Public corridors should connect directly to public stairs and elevators and private corridors should connect directly to private stairs and elevators.

Wherever prisoners are to appear, secure spaces, corridors, stairs, and elevators also are needed and should be separate from public and private facilities. Secure spaces should be provided in the criminal courtrooms and facilities of the general and limited jurisdiction courts, the juvenile courts, and the family and domestic relations courts.

The volatility of all juvenile and domestic relations proceedings makes their spaces especially subject to security problems and potentially the most dangerous. Small claims proceedings also generate volatile emotions that can readily erupt into fights or assaults.

In addition to needs assessments and program designs, our services include security audits, and are based on an on-going track record of security projects and studies since 1971. In audits as well as design projects, our recommendations are complete, realistic, and cost effective.