High Security Courtrooms

Occasionally, courts need to conduct trials in which there is a greater than normal potential for violence or disruption, necessitating greater security. In larger jurisdictions, consideration may be given to designing one courtroom to handle such trials.

It is important that the additional security precautions do not detract from the dignity and decorum of the court nor should they interfere with access to justice.

Additional bailiff positions should be provided. The holding cell should be adjacent to the courtroom and equipped with a microphone and speaker; two-way closed-circuit television transmission can be used if the defendant becomes violent or disruptive. Space might be provided in the courtroom for a secure prisoner station, or prisoner dock, which is surrounded by security glazing and directly accessible from the holding area.

Environmental considerations are the same as in criminal courtrooms.

All courtrooms should be accessible to persons with disabilities. Specific recommendations for provisions for disabled individuals are suggested in the following sections on specific courtroom elements.

Adjacency and circulation requirements are generally the same as for a regular criminal courtroom, except that the high-security courtroom should be located in an isolated area of the courthouse, where access can be controlled. The prisoner entrance should lead directly from the holding area into the courtroom. The jury should enter and exit by means of the private circulation corridor.

The judge's benchclerk's station, and witness stand should be lined with bullet-absorptive material (not bullet resistant which might cause bullets to ricochet). Any devices used to secure prisoners in the courtroom should be discreetly concealed. Closed-circuit television should be used to monitor proceedings in the high-security courtroom from the central security control room. Additional security screening may be appropriate at the entrance to the courtroom. Witnesses under protective custody should enter the courtroom from the private, secure corridor connected to a secure witness-waiting area.

If prisoners are restrained in the courtroom, thecounsel table should have a modesty screen to shield the prisoner. Furniture and furnishings should be secured or so heavy that they cannot be used as weapons.

High security courtrooms have the same technology needs as do regular trial courtrooms.