JEFFERSONVILLE — Officials are looking at ways to make the Clark County Government Building more secure.
At the Clark County Commissioners meeting Thursday night, Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael requested that the commissioners approve funding for an assessment by the National Sheriffs' Association to detect security weaknesses in the building at 501 E. Court Ave.
Following a discussion which also involved Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull, the funding was approved by Commissioners Bryan Glover and Jack Coffman, to come out of Contract Services, pending the approval of the Clark County Council.
Commissioner Rick Stephenson was not present at the meeting.
The request comes with certain parts of courthouse security either not functioning properly or in need of reinforcing. This was discussed, Carmichael said, at a meeting of a committee that was formed after Carmichael attended a recent national judicial conference.
“We had a meeting and one of the things we talked about was courthouse security and whether or not we could have an assessment of the building's security,” she said. “I was informed at that meeting that our cameras were down and had been down for a while in the building and that our panic buttons have also been down for a while, so I think there's a need to update the security system in the courthouse.”
“And it's not just about judicial security — I want to make sure that people know what we're asking for is an assessment of the entire building. Because when an event happens at the courthouse, it's not just judges and court staff who are involved.”
Recent issues with cameras, panic buttons and screening in the courthouse and building are not the only reason to get a thorough evaluation of the building, Carmichael said. She said the transport of prisoners through public areas of the courthouse is a concern.
“Drugs, weapons, other contraband have been found on the elevator, have been found in the courtroom, found on the benches in the hallways,” she said. “So there really needs to be a more secure access for prisoners into the courthouse.”
She said it may be a good idea to revisit the idea of a catwalk outside the building to transport prisoners, which was discussed when the jail was new.
“I understand everything costs money,” she said, “But the assessment would at least give us some idea of the picture of the state of things as it is now.”
The assessment, which would cost $9,247, would thoroughly evaluate the building and offer concrete suggestions for areas that need improvement, Noel said.
“It's a pretty in-depth study,” he said. “They'll look at the procedures that we have on file, the way we screen people now, the access points that we have now, how we transport the prisoners to and from court — it's a pretty thorough assessment.”
Coffman agreed that assessing security is important.
“The security system we have is so old, it's completely outdated,” he said. “It should be a top priority here in our building to get that assessment made and see where we can come up with the funding. We're going to probably have to this in some sort of stages, to make the changes that need to be made.
“If we want to solve this, we're going to have to get the funding from somewhere and we're going to have to work with the council on getting that worked out.”