Struthers court expansion enhances security

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The Struthers Municipal Court has seen rapid expansion under Judge Dominic Leone.

One of Judge Leone’s first priorities in office was to push for heightened security measures throughout City Hall.

As a result, a $15,000 camera system was installed to monitor the building, and new metal detectors, an X-ray machine and hand wands were purchased by the court with a $33,000 technology grant from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Beginning this month, the court started video arraignments, joining Youngstown Municipal Court to incorporate the technology.

“It’s so simple and easy. I don’t understand why it’s not used by more courts,” Judge Leone said. The new system cost $15,000.

The video cameras and television in the courtroom are connected to the Mahoning County jail, where some of the people awaiting arraignment are held.

Matt Glover, the city’s chief probation officer, said video arraignments are more secure because there is no movement of inmates from secure locations into lower security locations, such as a courtroom.

Though arraigning individuals remotely may increase security, it is also more impersonal. But Judge Leone said his interactions with those being arraigned are not negatively affected because they’re not physically present.

“Arraignments are fairly standardized, so the lack of face time doesn’t really impact what we do,” Judge Leone said. “Plus we often have the victims and the families of those involved present in the courtroom, so there’s still a physical presence here.”

In addition to video arraignments, the court has added an additional probation officer, expanded the clerk of court’s office space, and created a holding cell and office for use by probation officers.

The new probation office houses one of three monitoring stations for the numerous cameras throughout City Hall, as well as a bathroom for probationers and a work space for the officers.

Next door to the probation office is a narrow holding cell for female inmates. A bench with an attached cuff-rail is bolted to the ground there.

The room was the source of some controversy at City Hall in November. Judge Leone cleared the room of its prior contents to pressure the city into acting on its agreement to allow him to take over the office.

The city’s building maintenance supervisor, Don Clyde, formerly occupied the room.

Mayor Terry Stocker was frustrated by the act, saying the city had “bent over backward” to accommodate Judge Leone’s requests for better security in the building and said Judge Leone had made a mess in the hallway.

Ultimately, Clyde was moved to a basement office and the vacated room was turned over to the court.

Judge Leone said his pushes for greater security weren’t simply driven from an overabundance of caution. The city has to comply with state standards, such as providing separate rooms for male and female inmates and limiting access to the building during court hours to one entrance.

“Everything we’ve done is meant to make this place safer for the public and the people who work here,” Judge Leone said.

“But we also need to meet the state’s standards. We have to be in compliance with the law.”

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