So who forgot to pen the criminals in at San Diego's glitzy new $555-million courthouse?
If there was ever a failure of big-bucks city planning, take a look at San Diego's shiny new $555-million courthouse. According to an NBC News report, the local sheriff's office says it's so badly designed that criminals could waltz out unencumbered through the court's front doors.
NBC News reports:
San Diego's new downtown courthouse – scheduled to open July 17 – is plagued by a serious security problem that could allow dangerous criminals to escape through the courthouse front door.
The problem is detailed in a document written by the Sheriff's department and a top county official, who asked the state for an extra $3 million a year for added security throughout the new building.
The January 2016 document, obtained this week by NBC 7 Investigates, reveals there is no effort currently being made to eliminate or reduce the major risk factors for an inmate escape on the building's ground floor.
According to the Sheriff, the public entrance and exit to the new 22-story courthouse are located very close to two felony arraignment courtrooms, which "presents an increased security risk for a successful escape of in-custody prisoners charged with serious felony crimes."
The document also said that the courtroom doors can't be locked to help prevent an escape, due to the city's fire code[.]
The big problem, according to courthouse watchers, is that courthouse construction is the province of an administrative state organ called the Judicial Council. These people are bureaucrats, not builders, and it was pretty much nothing for them to overshoot the courthouse budget by coming up with this $555-million masterpiece. When they found they'd overshot the budget, they began to cut back on small things. One of the things they cut back on was a tunnel for the safe transport of prisoners from jail cell to courtroom. Instead, they opted for a bus service to reward some contractor, and then the courthouse design in this context, designed to impress outsiders from the outside, turned out to be uniquely suitable for facilitating convict escapes.
That's the problem here, and that's what calls into question the legitimacy of the Judicial Council to be out building courthouses. I wrote about one of their Taj Mahals in a piece that appeared in the Long Beach Press Telegram last summer – that one a $2-billion courthouse. The San Diego case clearly shows that Long Beach is not the only problematic one in terms of feasibly using resources.
The Alliance of California Judges is on to the problems with these bureaucrats and has an interest in auditing how they use funds. They are on to something there, given the public interest and given that they have a right not to be pushed around by incompetent, unelected bureaucrats. If they succeed in that, the results are likely to be doozies, and the move itself won't come soon enough.
NBC News Channel 39 in San Diego will have another segment outlining more aspects of the problem on Monday night.