Posted at: 05/29/2012 4:37 PM
Updated at: 05/29/2012 5:15 PM
By: Dan Conradt
Courthouse Security Bill Moving Through U.S. Senate
(ABC 6 News) -- The goal is to increase safety in America's courthouses. And a plan pushed by Senator Al Franken has passed one more committee hurdle in the US Senate.
It was a bill prompted by a high profile shooting in Minnesota. A gunman walked into a courthouse and opened fire, injuring three people. It happened in December in Grand Marais.
Where it happens the next time is anyone's guess.
“You're dealing with people in situations where emotions get the best of them," said Steven King of Mower County Corrections.
It's the reality of the 21st century court system.
"Now we have more and more drug related and violent criminals and the people who are involved in that have a mindset that seems to be more and more prone toward violence," said Mower County Judge Donald Rysavy.
And no one knows what might set it off.
"You can't predict what cases are necessarily going to produce issues," Judge Rysavy said.
Increased security was built into Mower County's new justice center, from a new entrance that can channel visitors through a single "choke point" to a secure transport method to move inmates from their jail cells to their court proceedings, along with a court security deputy.
"He is actually watching the courtrooms and also our jail holding area," Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi explained.
And if the docket includes a case that could lead to violence: "We will simply alert our courtroom deputy, could you have someone represent in the courtroom for this hearing," said Judge Rysavy.
"Anything we can do is better than nothing, but it still takes manpower and that's the true cost," said sheriff Amazi.
But even then, "There's a big world out there where anyone who wants to harm you could harm you, so you have to take some personal responsibility that way," said King.
"It has not been a major thing for me. I simply pay attention and remain vigilant," said Judge Rysavy.
Senator Al Franken's bill would give states authority to use existing grant money to improve courthouse security, and give courts more access to security training.