One of the most traumatic aspects of a trial for victims and witnesses is the numerous and prolonged appearances necessary in many cases. These proceedings normally require that all parties appear at the courthouse at the same time and congregate in the same public areas. This often results in victims having to physically associate with their alleged assailants and the defendant's family. The intermingling of defendants and witnesses for prosecution always has the potential for intimidation and conflict. The opportunity for a mistrial due to improper communication is also increased. Most courthouses now provide space for victim-witnesses to wait prior to testifying that is removed from the public areas of the building. Special areas may also be provided for child victims-witnesses.
Victim-witness waiting rooms are distinct and different from witness waiting rooms which are generally located adjacent to the courtrooms off the public corridor.
In view of the recognized rights of victims and witnesses to be shielded from intimidation and trauma, waiting areas should be provided for their use while awaiting trial. Attorney conference rooms may also double as witness waiting areas. The spaces should be comfortable and welcoming.
Individual victim-witness waiting rooms should be a minimum of 100 square feet to hold up to four persons. Rooms may need to be larger if they are to hold groups of over five persons or if there are likely to be long-term waiting. Other spaces may include rooms where victim/witnesses may be interviewed prior to trial. Victim/witness staff should be provided private offices of approximately 120 square feet. Larger offices may require a conference room and staff break area, and private staff toilets.
Victims-witnesses should have access to a private restroom. A small kitchenette may be provided in order to provide victim-witnesses with food and drinks if they are required to wait long periods of time prior to testifying.
The office should have a reception window for receiving persons and access to the victim/witness rooms should be controlled.
The victim witness waiting rooms should be soundproof. The rooms should be well ventilated and well lighted. The spaces should be comfortable and inviting.
All areas of the victim-witness spaces should be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Victim/witness waiting rooms should provide sight and sound separation from public waiting areas and should be accessible to the courtrooms. Victim-witnesses will generally be escorted to the courtroom by means of public circulation. In some jurisdictions the victim-witness area may be located with the prosecutors office.
Access to the victim-witness areas should be through the public circulation system. Entry to the space should be controlled and monitored by a staff receptionist.
Victim-witness waiting rooms generally require some access control to keep its occupants safe and free from intimidation. The entrance to the area should be monitored by security video cameras.
The victim witness waiting rooms should be comfortably and attractively furnished.
Staff offices should be furnished with a desk, credenza, bookcase, several chairs, and a filing cabinet. Equipment will include a personal computer with keyboard and video display monitor, telephone, and printer.
The reception area should be furnished with several chairs and small table. The receptionist should have a desk with personal computer, printer, and display monitor. Space may be provided for a filing cabinet.
It should be assumed that every work station, or office, will require a computer workstation with video display monitor(s), a printer, and document scanner. Many workstations will require dual monitors. Other devices that may need to be accommodated include telephone, phone chargers, battery chargers, and computer tablets. Each workstation will require a minimum of two quadriplex electrical outlets and one dedicated computer power receptacle, two data jacks and one phone jack (3 CAT6 lines). Specialized workstations may require additional electrical outlets. Because of the heat generated by electrical equipment, steps should be taken to ensure that equipment is cooled. Plans should include room for considerable growth in electrical demand.
The office may be equipped with video conferencing equipment for the purposes of remote testimony by vulnerable or child witnesses.