Why do you need additional courtrooms?
Lake County's population growth is placing huge demands on its court system, which includes all court services (criminal and civil), as well as the services of the Sheriff's Office and the jail, Circuit Clerk, State's Attorney, and Public Defender.
Due to the county’s increasing population, courtroom utilization rates have steadily increased and there is not enough available courtrooms downtown to meet the increased demand. Facility expansion for courts has not occurred since the mid 1990’s while the number of judicial case filings has increased by over 20% and the State of Illinois has added 10 new judgeships.
Lake County is already using temporary courtrooms, and there is a need for additional courtrooms, but there are none available.
Between 1990 and 2010:
• Lake County’s population grew by more than 36% (up from 516,418 to 703,462)
• Case filings grew more than 32% (from 179,281 to 237,298)
• Number of judges assigned by the State of Illinois raised 37% (from 27 to 37)
• Two to three more new judges, or 40 total
• Short five courtrooms based on the current number of judges
• Nine courtrooms that do not meet state standards
• No courtrooms available and no additional existing space to expand into
FUTURE GROWTH PROJECTIONS:
• Population projections for 2030 - 18% increase
• Court filings are expected to exceed 265,000 by 2015 a 12% increase, and exceed 307,000 by 2030 16% increase
• Another five or six judges assigned by the State of Illinois
• No space to accommodate this growth
Why can’t the County just enhance existing space and avoid building new space?
The main downtown courthouse was built more than 40 years ago and it presents significant constraints as it relates to holding inmates for court calls, and transporting them to and from the jail. Also, the County is already using conference rooms as temporary courtrooms, and nine courtrooms do not meet state standards for courtroom space. Even without expansion, Lake County has Court related facility needs that must be addressed in the near-term:
• Increase holding capacity for individuals in custody waiting for court call to provide for safe and efficient operations.
• Physical Improvements in the method for in-custody transport to increase the safety and security of the public, judges, and staff.
• Aging infrastructure, such as electrical and heating/cooling systems necessitate facility upgrades and energy improvements at main courthouse (built in the late 1960’s) to function efficiently over the next 40 years. This cannot be accomplished within a system that is currently over-capacity.
Are there other options instead of building more court space?
The court system has been implementing operational efficiencies, including a program that allows cases to move through the justice system based on when the case is ready, rather than a set timeline. This is called intensive case management and it reduces the amount of time necessary to resolve cases. These early disposition of cases, along with other efficiency measures in the detention process, have significantly postponed the need for expansion in the County’s long-term capital plans at the Lake County Jail.
What is the County doing to address this issue?
Lake County’s Facilities Master Plan— initially adopted in 2002 and updated over time—identifies the need for facility expansion, rehabilitation and energy retrofit projects to accommodate long-term growth across county government. Over the last several years, the County has focused on addressing over-capacity issues in Lake County’s Criminal Justice System, including current space shortages and the need for more courtrooms. The County has already implemented several phases of the plan, which included constructing new branch courts across the county, as well as numerous operational efficiencies.
To be fiscally responsible and plan strategically given the significant scope and complexity of this overall project, the Board determined that further review and detailed planning was necessary—much like a road project that must undergo several phases (pre-engineering, engineering, design, and construction).
In Spring 2012, the County Board approved funding Phase 3 of the Facilities Master Plan (implementation and development plan) to better understand the ramifications of court expansion both from a financial and operational perspective. This study has resulted in specific recommendations on space plans, additional operational efficiencies, and budget/funding plan options, as well as an implementation and construction schedule. Additionally, the plan assessed and identified additional operational efficiencies so that we are minimizing costs by utilizing space in the most cost-effective manner.
In November 2012, the County Board approved $90 million toward an extensive courts expansion project that will address increased demands over the next several decades, and most importantly, provide for more efficient delivery of justice.
Who will make the final decision on an expansion project?
The County Board has the authority and the responsibility to make any final decisions on an expansion project. The County Board created the Judicial Facilities Review Committee (JFRC) in 2008, which is made up of stakeholders from the judicial system and three county board members. Its role has been to review and evaluate the space constraints in the courts and make recommendations on the most fiscally responsible facility solutions. Based on the study findings, the agencies have implemented operational improvements.
What is included in the courts expansion project?
• Jail Capacity Analysis – Implement best management practices in jail classification to better manage jail population and when population warrants, pursue targeted capacity expansion without significant capital expenditures.
• Intensive Case Management (ICM) – Implement the next step of ICM to support the efficient disposition of cases – “the same or better justice sooner”.
• Justice System Governance Structure - Implement modifications to the justice governance structure to provide more coordinated management between the Justice Agencies. A critical component is a reporting and measurement structure to monitor the timely resolution of cases.
• Impact of Operational Improvements on Space Requirements – Continue to develop building design to support changes in the Justice System Operations.
How will the County fund these capital projects?
Lake County will pay approximately one-third, or $34 million, in cash and borrow (bond) approximately $90 million over 30 years, allowing Lake County to continue to have low debt.
• Down payment $34 Million (one-time funding) allocated in 2013 budget/Capital Improvement Plan
• Bond approximately $85 Million, 30 Year Bond Issuance
• Anticipated Debt Service (loan payment) between $5.0 - $5.4 million annually
What is the status of County jail capacity?
The County had increased jail capacity by 241 beds, or 47%, since 1994; however, it has not increased support infrastructure. In the Jail Capacity Analysis, several expansion opportunities were identified that can allow the jail to accommodate the minor increase in projected jail population through 2030. Based on this study, current inmate population, and population projections, along with the implementation of best management practices and operational efficiencies, the County will not need to build a new jail before 2030.
In order to make the operational changes necessary to extend the life of the current facility, it requires a $5.2 million investment to expand and renovate jail support services such as Jail Intake, Booking and Kitchen areas.
The proposed renovations will:
• Accommodate the current and future capacity of the Jail
• Provide for staffing efficiency
• Improve bond court in-custody transport
The analysis also identified possible expansion opportunities within the walls of the current jail such as adding 24 beds to Secure Detention, and a greater use of dormitory style housing for pretrial “low-risk” inmates, which would open space for high-risk inmates that don’t qualify for this type of housing. In addition, as jail population grows in the future there is the opportunity to harden 108 beds in the Community Based Corrections Center to provide greater detention housing options and allow the jail to house pre-trial inmates on these floors.
Lake County's growing population has placed a huge demand on the court system, and the County currently has a shortage of courtrooms and facility constraints to meet this demand. To address this issue, the County Board approved $90 million toward an extensive courts expansion project that will address increased demands over the next several decades, and most importantly, provide for more efficient delivery of justice.