New Juvenile Center Opened in Gibson Co.
TRENTON, Tenn. - After several years of talk, the Gibson County Juvenile Court has moved into a new facility, and workers said it is about time.
"There has been a tremendous growth in the number of cases that we have," said Judge Robert Newell.
Judge Newell used to have to hear cases in the courthouse basement.
The county has spent more than $600,000 renovating the old jail building, which has been sitting empty for seven years.
"We wanted to make it as safe and as private and confidential as possible," Newell said. "Down there I'd have a little courtroom full, the waiting area full, the halls full, and outside."
Court officials said there were many safety issues in the old basement location, and there just was not enough space.
"We had people sitting knee to knee," said Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon. "Literally, you could just cut the tension with a knife when you walked through there. And there was one way in and one way out. So if a bad situation were to erupt in there, you're not getting out."
The new building now has more doors to get inside, plus a bigger courtroom.
The judge said the old waiting area could only seat about 40 to 50 people. The new facility can hold about three times that many.
And county leaders said it will mean a lot to the kids.
"Just because some of these kids that come here have found themselves in a little bit of trouble, or they've taken the wrong road, or found themselves on the wrong road, that doesn't mean that road's a dead end road. In fact, we can use this facility to tell these kids that it's time to turn around," Witherspoon said.
The judge will start using the new facility for court starting Monday.
Mayor Witherspoon said they are now using the courthouse basement for file storage.