BROWNSTOWN, IN (WAVE) – If you need something from the Jackson County courts, where you’re going may soon change.
Instead of three separate courthouse buildings in two towns, the county is consolidating it all into one new judicial center in Brownstown.
“On two blocks and one town,” Jackson County Commissioner Drew Markel said.
Construction crews were hard at work Tuesday, putting in the landscaping and creating the final pieces to go inside the $12.5-million courthouse.
“Yes, this will be circuit court here,” Markel said, touring the facility. There will be two courtrooms on the first floor and a circuit court room, for felony cases, on the second floor, Markel said.
A fourth courtroom sits next door to the circuit court, but Markel said that will serve as storage until an additional courtroom is needed in the county. This new setup will house all of the courtrooms in the county into one building for the first time. For people used to traveling between the annex in Brownstown, the historic courthouse in Brownstown and another courtroom in Seymour, this will simplify that process.
“There’s about a 15-mile difference between the courts,” Markel said. “So it can be very confusing.”
The three court clerks, prosecutor’s office and voter registration will be housed in the new facility along with the courtrooms. The two buildings previously used in Brownstown will become offices for other uses in the county. The facility in Seymour is being used as a courtroom will possibly be sold, Markel said.
Heightened security will better protect people coming in from possible weapons, metal detectors and X-ray scanners will be required for people coming in and out. Security measures also will better separate the public from inmates coming to court.
“Right before you got here, we had about 10 inmates walk into the back of the old courthouse,” Markel told a WAVE 3 News crew Tuesday. “They just walk through the lobby and enter into the courtroom.”
Now, holding cells used through a separate elevator will protect the public from inmates.
What’s inside the courtrooms is now safer, too. Walking around the recently-installed areas for the jurors and public, Markel pointed toward the area where the court reporter and judge sit in the circuit courtroom.
“It has Kevlar panels that are behind this,” Markel said. “So it keeps judge and recorder and bailiff safe behind here if something should happen. It’s a great protection for the judge.”
The courthouse has cameras inside monitoring every room in the building. From a secure room, they can keep an eye on all those cameras, locking down courtrooms or even the whole courthouse if they need to for security.
This new judicial center has taken around one year to build but has been a project 10 years in the making, Markel said. When it opens, it will streamline court services into a simpler, safer process.
“Bring the courts together and allow the court security to work out of one facility,” Markel said. “And that’s definitely something that’s been done here.”
Jackson County’s new judicial center is expected to open in December.