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New In-Custody Courtroom now in use

The new In-Custody Courtroom has a separation between judge and inmates. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)1 / 2
Daniel Scheuermann, commander of detention services, explains the use of the In-Custody Courtroom from the holding area. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)2 / 2

The new In-Custody Courtroom (ICCR) at the Dakota County Sheriff Department in Hastings went live June 2. The new ICCR is part of the Judicial Center Remodeling Project. It began in March 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in November 2016.

Daniel Scheuermann, commander of detention services at the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, said the county has always had an in-custody courtroom, but it was way too small. The new ICCR doubled in size, to about 11,000 square feet.

“With the growth of the community and growth in crime, we just outgrew our old room,” Scheuermann said.

The ICCR is where inmates at the jail have their first court appearance. They find out what they are being charged with, what their next court date would be and bail is set for their release pending their next court date.

A major difference between the old and new ICCR is the separation of inmates. In the old ICCR, Scheuermann said, there was a separation between the gallery and the courtroom. There was glass separating the two, but the inmates were in the same room with the judges and court staff. Now, there are three separations: the inmates, the court staff and the gallery.

“There was some safety and security concerns,” Scheuermann said, “because at times you would only have one or two deputies in the room and before we separated the inmates from the courtroom itself, there would be one or two deputies in there with as many as 12 inmates or 15 inmates at a time.”

Scheuermann said there was never any physical altercation between an inmate and a judge and court staff had never been assaulted, but there was some scuffles, disagreements or swearing.

“We had always controlled it before it got to that point, but this is just a safer way of doing it,” he said.

Inmates in the holding tank will still be able to see the courtroom, communicate with their attorney via phones on the side window, hear what the judge is saying and receive paperwork through a pass-through window.

The increase in security for the ICCR doesn’t just apply to the inmates. Anyone in the gallery will have to enter through a point of entry screening, which didn’t happen in the old ICCR. Visitors must be screened with a metal detector as they enter.

Although the new courtroom area will be used first as the in-custody area, it will also be utilized as another courtroom if a need arises.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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