DuPage County unveils new courthouse renovations to meet SAFE-T Act standards

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Officials gathered at the DuPage County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon to celebrate a recent $20 million renovation and expansion in preparation for the Pretrial Fairness Act and the end of cash bail in Illinois. 

New spaces at the DuPage County Courthouse

The money went toward a number of upgrades. They include a new first-appearance courtroom to accommodate bond hearings, two domestic relations courtrooms, and an expansion of the grand jury room. More office and library space for public defenders and the State’s Attorney will be completed within the next two months.

DuPage County Board Chair Deb Conroy said an additional $5.4 million of federal relief dollars allowed for the spaces to be constructed with COVID in mind.

“The courtrooms are Zoom compatible, and we have the ability for additional social distancing as needed,” said Conroy.

The DuPage County Board approved the new space and facilities in March 2022, seeing the need in light of the changes to come due to the SAFE-T Act. One of those, the elimination of cash bail, takes effect Sept. 18.

“These courtrooms and offices will give our staff a great ability overall to comply with the SAFE-T Act,” said Conroy. “I am proud to say that our efforts have led to DuPage County being 100% prepared and ready to comply with the act.”

18th Circuit Chief Judge Kenneth Popejoy said the DuPage County judicial system is prepared for the next decade with the recent additions.

“What people need to realize is we are the second biggest judicial circuit in the state,” said Popejoy. “We have 48 judges, the second biggest number of judges in this state. And being right in this metropolitan area, we have the need for so many expansions in the like.”

New staff to work in the improved courthouse

Along with the new facilities, DuPage County needed to bring in additional staff to meet the new judicial standards set in the SAFE-T Act.

“We have hired additional attorneys, additional support staff,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. “We’re in the process of hiring more so that we can view every minute of body camera evidence, as well as the additional video evidence of witnesses and whatnot that we’re getting in every case.”

Public defenders and courtroom employees will have a much-improved work environment according to Popejoy.

“Our biggest need was space,” said Popejoy. “We had employees working in closets, we had employees sharing common workspaces. And with the SAFE-T Act, we knew an additional headcount would be required.”

Berlin is hopeful the additional facilities can help DuPage County stay safe.

“People of DuPage County should know that we will keep them safe,” said Berlin. “That we will do everything we can to keep them safe, that public safety remains the number one priority, as it should be.”

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