With Bleak Budget Outlook, Some Courts Reduce Security


On many days, the metal detectors sit silent at the busiest courthouse in Maine. The Associated Press reports that people arriving for everything from child custody hearings to murder trials walk through the machines without a beep. The detectors are off because the court can’t pay for officers to run them. With the recession prompting steep cuts to government budgets, courts are facing the tough decision of whether to reduce services or cut back on security.

Those safety concerns have only increased after last week’s fatal shooting at a Las Vegas courthouse and the release of a report that found threats to federal judges and prosecutors have doubled in recent years. When cuts are made to security staff, it compromises the safety of the courthouse, said Timm Fautsko of the National Center for State Courts. Says Mary Ann Lunch of Maine’s court system: “It’s a question of do you want to close courthouses and run (fewer) courthouses with full security? Or do you want to keep all your courthouses open and compromise on security?”

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