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Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

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.

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?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Aug 31, 2010 at 4:02 PM


Reader comments

Fri, Sep 3, 2010

At this small GSA-run federal building in flyover country, the security perimeter is akin to an airport-'security theatre'. It has holes you could drive a truck through. They quit making employees go through the scanner arches and scan their luggage because it slowed down building entry too much. It keeps out the kids and winos, but that is about it. All the 'clear zone' barriers do is create traffic hazards for people coming and going, and make it hard for ambulances and fire trucks to get as close to the building as needed. In an urban setting like this, there is no realistic way to maintain a useful (more than 30 feet) clear zone, or a good perimeter.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 Oklahoma City

Our building is reasonably secure but we don't have parking provided for us so we have to walk downtown among homeless people and school kids doing drugs before school. I think we should have a protected parking facility in close proximity to our building that is paid for by the government. I work for SSA/ODAR

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 Ohio

Our federal and bankruptcy court buildings both require passing through magnatometer screening stations to enter the building. I feel fairly safe when in them. Not sure what kind of security they have at night/on weekends.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010

A Federal Public Facility has never had any armed guards,and no local or state armed authorities.It is open 24/7.Hundreds of employees, thousands of visitors annually.Therefore the location can not be divulged.Would you feel secure there?

Wed, Sep 1, 2010 Idaho

I work for the USDA Forest Service, several of our small Districts, do not have any security provided to protect our frontliners and buildingsform potential harm and theft. Some Districts are in remote areas while others are on main hi-ways. I've expressed my concerns for the safety of the office personnel several times and have been trying to get some security counters and doorways/walls installed. One of the biggest prohibiting factors is lack of facility funding to keep us safe.

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