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Video keeps inmates behind bars, and citizens safe

January 5, 2010 - 0 Comments

Greg Donell Benson, who was jailed on felony charges including assaulting a public servant, was in a Galveston, Texas, courtroom meeting with his lawyer on Dec. 30, 2009. During the meeting in which only Benson, his attorney and bailiffs were present, the inmate allegedly slipped out of his handcuffs and attacked his attorney.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009, Brian Lee Carter was in court to face charges of burglary of an auto, escape from a penal institution, aggravated burglary, vandalism and criminal trespass in Hamilton County, Tenn. When being brought back into the hallway by bailiffs, Carter dropped a homemade knife, raising concerns since he had previously been allowed to be alone in a small room with a public defender while unknowingly armed with a dangerous weapon.

These aren’t scenes from an action movie, pages from a horror story or even episodes of a courtroom drama. These situations really happened.

Fingers can be pointed in these circumstances. People may say the court security wasn’t tight enough, or that proper protocols weren’t followed. But there is one underlying question; why are we bringing dangerous criminals out of jails and putting them in situations where they can more easily hurt others or escape?

The adoption of video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions in the judicial system is an alternative to transporting inmates that can make courts safer. VTC solutions enable prisoners to appear in court and interact with judges and other court attendees as if they were in the same room, without them ever being transported outside of prison. This honors the due process rights of all defendants by providing clear visual and audio representation of all parties involved while eliminating the risk to citizens and public service personnel.

In addition to public safety, VTC solutions in courtroom settings can also go a long way in helping reduce expenses and save taxpayer dollars. Conducting court proceedings via video allows less money to be wasted on guards and transportation, and permits prosecutors to stay in one, centralized location instead of being spread across multiple courts. Also, with the Supreme Court recently ruling that all forensic and scientific experts be present during trials for cross examination, allowing testimony via video can save additional transportation and security dollars.

A great example of the benefits of VTC in the judicial system is the pilot program currently being run at the Holman Correctional Facility by the Alabama Department of Corrections. Despite only being implemented in some prisons and courtrooms through the pilot program, VTC solutions have been used by judges to hear multiple cases and have received praise on many levels. It is estimated that when fully implemented, the VTC solutions could save the state millions of dollars over time, and also help keep public servants and citizens safe.

VTC solutions in the courtroom and in prisons are revolutionizing the judicial system and making it safer, more efficient and more effective. Now that’s a new way of serving and protecting.

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