DES MOINES, Iowa — Court has been in session at the new Polk County Criminal Courthouse since March 18th, but they are cutting the ribbon Monday for its grand opening.
The new Polk County Criminal Courthouse took about two and a half years to build and there is still room to grow.
“There is currently 10 operational courtrooms in this building right now, they do have room to expand another five courtrooms in the future, if needed,” Lt. Heath Osberg from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
With the view of the old courthouse through them, the new criminal courthouse is lined with windows. The Sheriff’s office said the new courthouse has state of the art technology and cameras. Each court room has a meeting room where attorneys and clients can work out deals before and after the hearings. In the old courthouse all that was done in the courtroom and it got very loud. Each courtroom has an individual holding cell making it easier for officers to account for every person in the building.
“Once an inmate comes into this building, we stay here, there is not really transporting them from across the street and then holding them somewhere else, the only transportation we have is our actual main jail and then getting them to the court building,” Osberg said.
The biggest change from the last courthouse is the way inmates get to and from the courtroom. They use separate dedicated moving paths for the inmates, the employees and the public.
“The way that we move inmates to and from, it’s completely out of the view of the public now so it’s safer for them, safer for the public, it’s easier on our staff, we’ll use less staff to do just as much as we were doing, if not more. So overall the process is working out really well,” Osberg said.
Previously, officers would walk inmates from the cars and through the public to get to the courtroom and often times, fights would break out.
“Court hearings probably bring out a lot of raw emotions in any type of case, so yes, there were probably incidences throughout or yelling matches, things like that. But the way that we have gotten around it for this building is again they have their own ways in and out of the courtroom there really is no direct involvement with the public,” Osberg said.
The new Criminal Courtroom is located at 110 6th Avenue in Des Moines. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the courthouse was paid for by a bond referendum for around $81 million.