HOLLIDAYSBURG - Blair County Magisterial District Judge Steven D. Jackson was tired Tuesday morning when he arrived for the dedication of the county's new Central Booking Center at the Blair County Prison.
Jackson, as is often the case with the designated on-call district judge, spent most of the night arraigning suspects arrested by area police. Monday night was particularly busy for Tyrone police, and Jackson said he had little if any sleep.
The fact he was attending the center's opening was an eye-opener for Jackson, a retired Logan Township police chief.
Not only had he been a leader in bringing about the new center, but Jackson is also hoping that the number of sleepless nights experienced by the county's six magisterial district judges are coming to an end.
Central Booking is a place where police officers can take suspects for processing and arraignment.
They can now drop off the suspects at any time day or night at the prison and go back to work.
Arraignments, where suspects are formally charged with a crime and bail set by the district judge, will be held at specified times during the day using new videoconferencing equipment purchased by the county with the help of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
Jackson and Magisterial District Judge Todd F. Kelly, who has long been in favor of a booking facility, explained that on-call judges will still have duties to perform at night.
Arrest and search warrants still have to be approved. Emergency protection-from-abuse orders will still have to be addressed.
But the on-call judge should get a break when it comes to the arraignments, which often take time.
Jackson also said that the new digital fingerprint equipment in the booking center will help the judge set bail in an expeditious manner.
In setting bail, judges want to know the circumstances in which a person finds himself: Is he on parole or probation or are there outstanding warrants?
As an example, Jackson noted that recently he had an individual who used many aliases. He said he wouldn't arraign the individual until he knew the individual's true identity.
The new fingerprint equipment is hooked into federal and state fingerprint records which not only allows the judge to identify the suspect but to also determine if there are outstanding warrants for his arrest.
The center is 10 years in the making.
Defendants are each paying a $200 fee to help fund the center. The fee, which was initially $175, has been assessed since 2009.
It is time consuming for police to arrest, process and arraign suspects, Blair County Sheriff Mitchell Cooper, a former Altoona deputy police chief, said.
"The time will be reduced significantly," he said.
The center officially opened at noon Tuesday and by 3 p.m., it was very busy, Warden Michael Johnston said.
There was a line of people waiting to have their fingerprints recorded, he said.
"This is going to be trial and error. We are going to change and make adjustments as we go through the process," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.