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Dauphin County touts new judicial center as public safety win - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County touts new judicial center as public safety win

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Up until now, it wasn't uncommon for police officers in Dauphin County to find themselves tied up for hours after making an arrest, waiting in one of five booking centers for their suspect to be processed and arraigned by a district judge.

Cutting the time officers spend with arrestees to no more than about 20 minutes is a main goal behind the new $4.2 million Dauphin County Judicial Center unveiled last month by the Dauphin County Commissioners.

The two-story, 14,786-square-foot center in Swatara Township, adjacent to the Dauphin County Prison, also gathers key criminal justice components under one roof. Those include probation, victim witness, pre-trial and counseling and treatment services. The center has a full courtroom and video conferencing so arrestees can also be arraigned without the judge having to travel to the facility.

"This center really underscores the idea of what we call ‘Smart Justice' – the bringing together of criminal justice services in a streamlined and cost-effective way that both improves community safety and saves taxpayer money," commissioner Jeff Haste said.

By including drug and alcohol caseworkers in the center, Haste said it gives the court the option to offer the opportunity arrestees a chance to go to a secure treatment center rather than prison. Since federal and state funds are available for treatment options, as opposed to the county bearing the entire cost of housing inmates in its prison, Haste said it is a win for local taxpayers as well as for the arrestees who receive the help they need.

The center's $1.2 million annual budget will be covered by booking fees paid by arrestees taken to the facility. As the county looks to expand the range of treatment services offered at center, additional federal and state grants may be available, Haste said.

Members of the public who need to be fingerprinted for background checks required for some jobs will also be able to have that done at the center for a small fee.

When the center is fully operational, the booking centers in Harrisburg and Swatara, Derry, Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships will close. The Derry center will be maintained as an emergency backup booking center.

Police arriving with a suspect will pull into a secure garage and then be allowed in to the secure processing center, which includes eight adult and two juvenile holding cells fully monitored by surveillance cameras. Officers will be able to complete their reports in a fully-equipped office, turn their prisoner over to the judicial center staff, and then get back to patrolling their community.

Child sex offenders who are required by Megan's Law to update their personal information annually will be able to do so at the center, said center director Michael Madden, who was previously a captain at the county prison, where he worked since 1990.

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