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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Justice may be delayed. Justice may be denied. But for juveniles in Miami-Dade County now it will all be in designer surroundings.
The county held court for the first time Monday in its gleaming new downtown Children’s Courthouse.
It is a sparkling fourteen stories tall, with murals on walls outside and lots of chairs and benches with shade trees. Inside there are spectacular views of downtown and the bay. There is children’s art on the walls, with multi-colored windows strategically placed for artistic effect on every floor.
It replaces the former “juvie” courthouse, opened in 1972, and universally considered a dump.
Except for actual hearings, the media was never allowed to shoot photos or video in the old juvenile courthouse – the bathrooms, the hallways, the lobbies – but the facility on Northwest 27th Avenue was viewed by judges, attorneys and court personnel as a grimy, decrepit, cramped, depressing place.
The bright, new courthouse is a $110 million investment in better juvenile justice.
“The families get the respect that they’re due, the children get the respect that they’re due,” Chief Juvenile Judge Orlando Prescott said on Monday, as he scurried about making sure opening day went smoothly. “Court is conducted in an environment that resembles a courtroom.”.
But don’t take the Chief Judge’s word for it.
Angela Lambert has been working her son through the juvenile justice system, dealing with a brush with the law. She has attended hearings with her son both at the old, shoddy courthouse and at the new one Monday. She called it “inspiring.”
“When you walk in, you have a graceful atmosphere that should be helpful to the children to see that there’s more to life than getting in trouble,” the mother said.
Judge Cindy Lederman gaveled court to order in one of the new building’s 18 courtrooms – with marble panels in front and behind the judge’s benches – and state of the art audio and video systems. It is a courtroom maybe five times the size of her old one, good for the judge and those who help her.
“The clerks have more room to maneuver around, to serve the residents,” said court clerk Norris Kimble. “It is very nice.”
Judge Lederman thinks the new courthouse will have a calming effect.
“Maybe less fist fights,” Lederman said, chuckling. “Better behavior, a more civil environment. This is a very civil environment. Our environment on 27th avenue, not so much.”
In the lobby of the new building is a sculpture of a momma bear and her cubs – a symbol of nurturing.