Court Security Grants 2023-2024
The 113th Tennessee General Assembly approved a $4 million one-time budget allocation to improve courthouse security across the State of Tennessee. The Administrative Office of the Courts will administer grants to the state’s 95 counties. The grant process will begin on July 1, 2023. The first round of applications will be reviewed on September 15, 2023. Grant applications received after September 15 will be evaluated on a rolling basis.
Applications were emailed to all state judges, county judges, and court clerks in July 2023. If you need an application, please email Barbara Peck at Barbara.Peck@tncourts.gov
Minimum Court Security Standards
Tennessee has minimum court security standards. The ultimate goal of the grant program is to bring every courtroom where state and county court is held up to at least the minimum security standard. The AOC administers a court security survey in December of each year. The surveys are sent to every county. The results are used to determine whether a county is “in compliance” with the minimum court security standards. Currently, 52 of Tennessee’s 95 counties do NOT meet the minimum security standards. Some of the court security standards were implemented in the 1990s while others were enacted in 2018.
Tennessee Minimum Courtroom Security Standards
- Silent bench and court clerk’s public transaction counter panic button connected directly to the sheriff’s department or police department.
- A bullet-proof bench and court clerk work area in courtrooms.
- Availability of armed, uniformed guard (court officer) in each courtroom during court sessions.
- Court security training for court officers. Court security briefing on annual basis for judicial staff and courthouse personnel.
- Hand-held detectors (minimum of 2) and/or magnetometers in each county to assure the safety in each courthouse or courtroom.
- Each court building shall have signage posted at each court access entrance stating that all persons are subject to search by security personnel. Prohibited items are subject to seizure and forfeiture. Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, the following: firearms; other forms of weaponry; and any item(s) that can be transformed into a weapon.
- Hand held inspection security mirror to be used to view under courtroom seating and other areas for safety in the courthouse and/or courtroom(s).
In order to be in compliance, a county must have the same number bench panic buttons as courtrooms, the same number of bulletproof benches as courtrooms, the same number of bulletproof clerk work spaces as courtrooms and the same number of panic buttons as public transaction counters.
2022 Court Security Data
To meet the standard, the number of bulletproof benches, panic buttons, and bulletproof clerk work spaces should be the same as the number of courtrooms in the first column. The clerk panic buttons are located at the public transaction counters, which is unrelated to the number of courtrooms. The number of clerk panic buttons should equal the number of transaction counters, shown in the chart as “5/5” (meets) or “3/5” (does not meet). No specific number of handheld magnetometers, inspection mirrors, or signage is required. Walk-thru magnetometers and video arraignment is optional.
Counties were emailed a link to view their 2022 court security survey.
Going Beyond the Minimum Court Security Standards
The Tennessee Judicial Conference Court Security Committee and Administrative Office of the Courts fully recognizes that each courthouse and each courtroom have unique security challenges. The minimum standards are just that – the minimum standard. Counties are welcome to apply for items and resources that go beyond the minimum standards, but would improve security in their particular courthouse. However, if your county is not in compliance with the minimum standards, your application must also include all items required to bring it into compliance. For example, if you would like to apply for bullet proof glass and security cameras, but you have four courtrooms and only two panic buttons, you must also apply for the two missing panic buttons.
In June 2022, the National Center for State Courts released updated court security recommendations. While these recommendations are not specifically required in Tennessee, they may provide counties with strategies to improve courtroom security.
In 2020, the National Center for State Courts issued court security guidelines for domestic violence cases:
Previous Court Security Grants
The AOC administered court security grants in 2017-2018 and 2018-2020. Those grants totaled $4 million. The maps below show which counties received funds, how much counties received, and which counties were brought up to meet the minimum standard after the previous court security grant programs.
Counties Receiving Funds
color="red">Funds Spent Per County
Counties Meeting Standard After 2017 & 2018 Grants
|Grant Award Letters 2017 – Coming Soon|
To view your county's previous court security grant approval letter, which describes the items and amounts approved, please use the link below:
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: I have reviewed my county's 2022 Court Security Survey and do not think it is correct. Can it be updated?
A: Yes. You can file an amendment to your annual Court Security Survey to correct any information that was not correctly captured.
Q: Can my county receive a grant if we received a previous court security grant in 2017-2020?
A: Yes. We will review any previous grants when we review your current application. If you are applying for the same items, please provide an explanation.
Q: Can I apply for law enforcement or staff positions?
A: Unfortunately, no. The court security grants can be used for one-time purchased items, but not reoccurring costs like staff positions. Please note that the 2022 Court Security Survey asked several questions about staffing and you should continue to provide the AOC information on court security staffing challenges and examples.
Q: My county meets the minimum standards. Should I still apply for a grant?
A: Yes. We suggest you look at the National Center for State Courts Best Practices. The Minimum Court Security standards are just that...the minimum. Every courthouse and courtroom varies and it is difficult to develop a "one size fits all" minimum standard. Please work with your local sheriff and court security officers to determine any needed improvements.
Q: Are county court clerk spaces included in the in minimum court security standards?
A: Yes. The court clerk workspaces in the courtroom as well as the clerk public transaction and work areas are included. Court security grants can be used to improve security in any space where court clerks regularly work.
Q: Can this grant be used to make technological improvements to courtrooms and courthouses?
A: Yes, if you can make a case that the technological improvement will increase court security, the request will be considered. For example, video arraignment and video conferencing equipment were not originally part of the 2017-2020 grant process, but several counties made strong arguments that this equipment will improve court security in their courthouses. As a result, the AOC funded 37 video systems in the previous grant.
Q: I am not sure I want to apply for a grant in this grant cycle. Can I just wait until next time?
A: No. We do not know when "next time" will be. Court security grants are a one-time allocation provided by the Tennessee General Assembly. This year's allocation is very generous and we do not anticipate the General Assembly making another allocation specific to court security in the near future.
Q: I don't think I really need the security measures listed in the Minimum Court Security Standards. Is anything going to happen if my county does not meet the minimum standard and does not apply for a grant?
A: The Minimum Court Security Standards are not optional. State and county courts in Tennessee are required by statute to at least meet the minimum standards. The General Assembly has provided funds to ensure every county is at least meeting the minimum standard. Your county needs to apply.
Q: Do the Minimum Court Security Standards require a certain level of bulletproofing?
A: No, the Minimum Court Security Standards do not require a specific level of bulletproofing. The decision of what level of bulletproofing to install is a county-level decision that should be made in collaboration with your county's court security committee and sheriff.
Q: Do the Minimum Court Security Standards require the judge, clerk or court staff to be surrounded in bulletproof glass?
A: No. The Minimum Court Security Standards require the benches and work spaces to be bulletproof. The decision on when and how to expand bulletproofing is a county-level decision and should be made in collaboration with your county's court security committee, sheriff and the judges or staff involved.