Minnehaha County unveiled its new virtual courtroom

Minnehaha County unveiled its new courtroom on Monday; a virtual one.

When the county was building its new jail two years ago, it also designed a courtroom inside of it. As you’re about to see, it not only saves time for jail staff, but it’s also a lot safer for them.

You are looking at a first of a kind in South Dakota. It’s called ‘Courtroom J,’ but only this courtroom is inside the jail itself.

“In our jail courtroom we have everything we had in the courthouse, we have defense attorneys, state’s attorney’s office, a judge clerk of courts, baliff all come over to this courtroom,” Lt Mike McGovern said. “It wasn’t on our radar until early on in the planning phases of the new expansion, we toured about a half dozen jails in the Midwest and a couple of those jails had something similar to what we came up with and we seen what they had and we thought it was a great idea mainly for security reasons.”

The new courtroom eliminates the need to transport prisoners from the jail to the courthouse, which McGovern says is a lot safer for sheriff deputies.

“We are no longer leaving the secured perimeter of the jail to go to the courthouse, it’s all within the secured walls of the jail,” McGovern said.

Not all inmates have to be constrained in shackles either when making their first court appearances, which is a time-saver; especially on busy days like Mondays when jailers typically have to transport between 50 and 75 inmates to court.

The appearances in ‘Courtroom J’ are live-streamed over the internet, so family and friends can watch the proceedings.

“We still want them to have the ability to view their loved one’s court hearing so we’ve provided a link to live-stream viewing of it,” McGovern said.

The South Dakota Supreme Court had to authorize this pilot project to live-stream court appearances. It’s illegal to capture or rebroadcast the video. If you’d like to watch the live-stream, click here.

Henry Carlson Construction, along with JE Dunn Construction completed the jail this summer. View the story on KELOLAND.