How secure is your facility?

Two federal judges--one who decides Social Security cases, and another who presides over immigration cases--this week detailed the growing threat of violence that they, along with their families, face.

Two federal judges--one who decides Social Security cases, and another who presides over immigration cases--this week detailed the growing threat of violence that they, along with their families, face.

In both instances, the respondents in their cases are under great stress, and face serious financial or legal outcomes, such as denial of benefits or deportation. That pressure can provide the trigger for those who are predisposed to violent behavior.

“Even though we are operating under conditions that closely resemble traffic court we are rendering decisions which could amount to death sentences,” said one of the judges—Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge based in San Francisco and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

The judges say that many of the courts are convened in leased facilities that were not designed to be secure. In some immigration proceedings, there is no bailiff, and in Social Security courts, security guards are not even permitted in the room out of privacy concerns, they noted.

The judges called for a range of remedies—including more security personnel, railings to separate judges from respondents, and separate exits for judges and staff.

It seems like a no-brainer that judicial facilities—like defense facilities—require a high level of security. Of course, lots of other government venues also bring federal employees into daily contact with disgruntled members of the public—and frequently in the same kinds of leased facilities that were not necessarily designed with security issues in mind. These days, just working for an agency of that blasted “federal government” is enough to set some people off.

Do you feel your facility is safe? Do you think your agency has taken common-sense measures to protect you?

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