It didn’t take much effort for Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole to illustrate his point.
Our staff wasn’t allowed to take photographs, but Cole showed the cramped space in the basement of the Christian County Justice Center where six of the eight detectives on staff are working. The room they are in was not designed to be an office, yet six desks and some meager dividers divvy up their workspaces.
“All of the detectives are in there together trying to process all of their evidence and other things in that one office, and it becomes very, very distracting and hard to work,” Cole said.
Cole said that investigators will perform their jobs at a higher level once the new offices are open. Renovations are underway in what was the Christian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to create offices for detectives with floor-to-ceiling walls and doors.
“When you have your own personal space and own office, you don’t have interruptions. You’re able to actually have victims come to your office and have a private meeting with them, and be able to sit down and discuss their case with them,” Cole said.
As working professional journalists, we know all too well about working in open offices, both out of necessity and because someone thought it would be good for us to work in a “collaborative environment.”
Much like the eight detectives, the Christian County assistant prosecuting attorneys needed more space. They got it with the opening of the $11.1 million, 34-square foot Christian County Circuit Court building.
Architects worked with the staff to plan for a special waiting area for victims and witnesses waiting to testify in court cases. The private waiting room prevents victims and witnesses from being threatened or intimidated.
“We will be able to have victims and witnesses wait in here so it’s quite and set aside, and you aren’t going to be able to have defendants walking by and looking in,” Prosecuting Attorney Amy Fite said.
There is even a special waiting area for children, which some assistant prosecuting attorneys personally helped stock with toys and books.
Assistant prosecuting attorneys were working in cubicles, cabinets full of files and volumes of material piling up all around them. When someone decides to spend the big bucks and the big energy on law school, I doubt they envision being crammed into a cubicle upon passing the bar exam.
Circuit Judge Laura Johnson spoke on the need for the prosecuting attorneys to have more room to work when the Christian County Circuit Court building opened. Space issues because a matter of attorneys being able to effectively do their jobs.
“There was a critical and unacceptable shortage of space for some of our most important law enforcement agencies,” Johnson said. “We frankly got to a critical point where it could be put off no longer.”
Finally, the moves being finished on the Justice Center campus helped the employees who work juvenile cases.
Christian County Chief Juvenile Officer Perry Barnes said that his staff has more space to operate and to work in a more secure building.
“They see some of the worst of the worst cases day in and day out,” Barnes said. “We have a responsibility to provide these protections and services in a safe, secure and reasonably private environment. This building means so much to the juvenile office in our community.”
And yes, buildings aren’t free. These moves have cost money, more than $11 million in taxpayer dollars. Officeholders will be living with lean budgets for a while as they absorb the costs of the move, but operating frugally should not be new to anyone who holds public office in Christian County. With first class working space, they should be able to perform first class work.