When I started practicing law in Perry County in 1974 the jail was in an old house on Spring Street and the Sheriff’s office was housed in just two rooms in the Courthouse. It was clear even back then that times were changing and something had to be done to better accommodate the needs of law enforcement. The situation was called to the attention of the citizens and they came through with the necessary finances for the building of the current jail and sheriff’s office on South Kingshighway.
While everyone was proud of the new facility on a tour of it not long after it was built it was clear to me that there were major design issues. I remember asking why the lights were dimmed down so low in the control room and was told they needed to be that way so the inmates could not see in and thus track the number and movements of jail personnel in the area. Obviously for security it is vital that the jailers can see the inmates but that the inmates cannot see them.
Before the computer age, as the Associate Circuit Judge, on occasion I delivered papers I had signed to the jail to be served. It was clear even back then that there was a serious lack of adequate office space. Deputies’ offices and clerical personnel space was severely crowded allowing little room to work.
As the years passed the Perry County criminal load increased dramatically and thus the demand for bed space at the jail increased. Cells were bunked to handle the load but obviously the design of the facility could not be changed to accommodate the additional security needs this created.
With improved technology over the years we now have 911 throughout the county. I am thankful for that having used it on occasion. But having dispatchers at the police department and at the sheriff’s department is a duplication and not efficient for a county of our size. The purpose of a 911 system is to provide swift, efficient handling of emergency calls. A central dispatch location and administration of such would be of great benefit to all citizens.
Space and efficiency in the criminal justice system are vitally important. Many years ago I worked with the commissioners for the creation of a separate courtroom for the Associate Circuit Judge. With two courtrooms available over the years judges have been able to set cases much more quickly resulting in getting inmates out of the county jail, thus saving taxpayer dollars.
Lastly, courthouse security must be addressed. We have never had any. For many years to enter courthouses in other communities one must go through “airport type” security. No one is happy to go to court and emotions often run high. Our citizens who work there and those who use the court system, even occasionally, need to be kept safe.
Michael J. Bullerdieck
Retired Perry County Associate Circuit Judge