Like many older courthouses, Pennington County’s was lacking in security, operational space and zone separation of public, staff and inmates. The jail was built in 1974 and as a linear design which created increased supervision requirements. To move inmates to court required taking inmates out of the jail across a main street and up to the courtroom through public hallways. This unsecured movement put staff and inmates at risk and created a possible liability for the County. Based on these items and jail noncompliance issues, the County Board decided to proceed with a new justice center at their current site with significant reuse of (renovated) existing spaces. To accomplish this the project was phased to allow the facility to remain operational and open to the public.
The new facility was planned as an addition to the existing sheriff’s offices with new jail areas constructed south of the existing building and portions of the jail renovated. Adjacent to the jail and work release areas is a County courthouse, with two district courtrooms, three judge’s chambers, probation and records areas, a law library, a county attorney suite, and court administration space.
An underground squad garage and a new County boardroom rounds out the addition. The sheriff’s department was remodeled to update it to modern standards and provide intake space for the jail. The old courthouse will be repurposed for other County functions.
The exterior design expression for the building echoes the modern “floating box” style of the existing courthouse, communicating the transparency of the judicial process and the contemporary outlook of this rural county. Views from public spaces are framed with projecting boxes clad on the interior sides with wood-look metal planks. Cast stone elements at the base of the building and around the judge’s chambers convey the security, longevity, and solemnity traditional in courthouse design.