As video becomes more pervasive in our daily lives, we increasingly hear about using live, interactive video to take students on virtual fieldtrips, connect colleagues across the globe and enable better access to healthcare for rural and underserved communities. Collaborative technologies connect people and cut costs across a variety of settings. Another area we’re seeing new, innovative applications is in courts, corrections and law enforcement.
In Dallas County, Texas, for example, 25 to 50 prisoners are processed daily, telepresence systems were installed in the courthouse, the county jails and the infirmary. As one might imagine, transporting prisoners who have already been booked back to the courthouse for another arraignment takes a significant amount of time and, therefore, cost. The process entails the Sheriff’s Office getting a list of all the prisoners facing new or altered charges; have a deputy gather them up from the various facilities in which they are housed and place them in a holding cell; and then bring them all back in to the courthouse together for their new arraignment. When all is said and done (secure a van, get two deputies to transport the prisoners in the van; get through traffic; and then go through security at the other end), it takes at least two hours. However, with the technology on-hand, the county has been able to re-arraign 700 prisoners a month without having to transport them. Also, by enabling court dealings via a secure network it reduces paper work, improves flexibility for the courts and dramatically decreases travel costs when working with geographically spread-out participants
Pinellas County, Florida, is another great example of innovative ways telepresence is used to reduce costs and connect people in the court and jail system. Telepresence is housed in the County Jail Administration Support building and on a high-tech bus that travels throughout the county, allowing inmates to connect with family and friends are located in remote parts of the country. And while in this example the technology isn’t saving the county money, it is helping to keep families together. As Coates said, “About 80 percent of our inmate population is pretrial detention, so these people haven’t even been convicted of the crimes that they’re charged with. We think it’s important for the inmate and the family member to have the ability to talk via video visitation.”
Cisco’s Connected Justice focus reflects the changing needs of law enforcement and judicial systems struggling to deal with decreased budgets, higher crime rates and increased case loads. As more jails and courts embrace collaborative technologies we expect to see more innovative uses and new benefits realized.
Have you seen innovative uses of technology in your local justice system?