New Franklin County Courthouse has enhanced safety, technology | News


FRANKLIN COUNTY, ILLINOIS (WSIL) — After nearly two years of construction, the county welcomes visitors to see the inside of the new courthouse following a dedication ceremony.

News 3 had a chance to tour the building and learn more about what it has to offer including a sally port where inmates, accompanied by law enforcement, will enter in a patrol vehicle.

Franklin County Courthouse

Once the gates to the sally port are completely shut, it will trigger that the door to the inside of the courthouse can be unlocked. At that point, the officer can get the inmate out of the vehicle.

Kevin Weston, a Franklin County board member, explains more.

“They’ve (deputies) got a key fob that will open this door,” he says. “Or if they’re from another department, there’s a speaker there they can talk to control room and say can you open the door and bring them in that way.”

Eyes are also watching the sally port at all times as an added measure.

“We’ve got cameras in here also that our control room will be monitoring,” Weston adds. “They can see what’s going on at all times in here.”

A big change from street parking and law enforcement walking the inmate into the courthouse.

Circuit Clerk Jim Muir remembers trials where that could create a spectacle.

“Sometimes the victims families out there,” Muir recalls. “You had the family of the person coming in so it was a very difficult situation at best, and I think this has eliminated that.”

Next, inmates will take their own elevator up to the court room holding cells. Previously, they used the same elevator as the general public.

When they’re case is up, a bailiff escorts them to the courtroom.

Two of the courtrooms have 14-foot ceilings, a jury bench, cameras to record the proceedings among other safety features.

“In front of the judge’s bench, the reporter, in front of the circuit clerk,” Weston explains. “All of that is bullet proof behind the panel.”

Also feeling some relief are those working in the circuit clerk’s office as a new glass panel secures their workspace.

“People could just literally reach across the counter if they wanted to,” Muir says. “We’ve had people who have not been happy at the time they were in front of our office.”

All security features will be monitored in a control room, also behind bullet proof glass.

There’s a touch-screen computer where security can lock doors and open doors. 

On top of security, new technology allows for lawyers to show electronic evidence to the judge like video or photos.

The judge can then choose to keep the evidence private or share it with the rest of the courtroom where it will be projected on a TV screen that still needs to be installed.

Weston says similar technology is in the jury room for when they deliberate.

“The table here has a connections for power as well as a USB and for a computer,” he explains. “If they want to view something from the video evidence from the trial they will have the ability to do that here.”

Originally, board members thought it would take 15 years to pay off the courthouse. However, the one-percent sales tax has been bringing in more income than expected.

Now, they’re projecting to have it paid off by April or May of 2027.

Monday, May 2nd marks the first day of hearings inside the new courthouse. Until then, employees and workers will be getting settled into their new offices. 


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