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Court changes would raise judge's bench, wall off prisoners

Looking up to justice in Cheektowaga Town Court could take on new meaning if proposed security changes are made inside the courtroom.

One of the plans is for a new, higher bench to be constructed for the town justices and clerks.

"The whole bench would be elevated so a 7-foot-1 man within arm reach could not reach over the bench and grab any instrument from the bench to use as a weapon," Court Administrator Stephanie Lewandowski said.

The other security measure the court would like to see is the installation of a wall that is about 5 feet high to separate prisoners from the rest of the courtroom. Prisoners brought in for arraignments typically sit in chairs against a wall to the judge's left.

The wall would prevent prisoners from walking away from their seats. If they cause trouble, they would have to climb over the wall, Lewandowski said.

"If they should react, that wall would allow the bailiff more time to stop the reaction," she said. "This isn't just a redecorating of the courtroom, this is a security issue."

The proposals were presented at the Town Board's work session Tuesday, and are estimated to cost about $20,000, Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said.

He said they will be considered with other capital improvements that may be needed in the town.

He said town departments will be surveyed on their space needs, an issue that has been put off for some time.

"At some point in time we're going to have to do something," Gabryszak said.

But he said work would not include construction of a new police and court building.

"Do we need a new police and court building? Yeah," he said. "Can we afford it now? No, we're not going to address it now."

He said the consultant's report on the north and south branch libraries showed necessary renovations would cost a total of about $1 million. Town Board members received the report this week and will review its conclusions.

The town had hoped to put its records center in the north branch on Maryvale Drive and open a community center in the south branch on William Street.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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