Across the United States, district courts, circuit courts and probate courts have implemented video conferencing technology to enable procedures such as arraignments and expert witness testimony without requiring an in-person visit to the courtroom. Video conferencing enables state and local entities to reduce travel costs, improve public safety and expedite court procedures. In Huron County, Michigan, video conferencing is funded by a grant and implemented by Polycom.
Courts in Huron County, located in the northern tip of the Michigan Thumb, face the same safety and procedural costs of any community, with the added burden of a remote location. For example, a 15-minute inmate hearing would require a 12-hour drive from the Upper Peninsula to Lansing. The cost to transfer an inmate to the hearing is roughly $1,800. For more complex legal proceedings, the time, travel and security costs increase. With video conferencing, travel costs are reduced to zero.
In addition to cost, minimizing inmate transfer and travel is a boon to public safety on many levels. Measurable savings and risk in security staffing and vehicles are obvious. “When you hear of a prisoner escaping it all has to do with prisoner transport,” said Rob Mackey, account manager at Polycom. Less obvious, however, is the ability to reduce potentially contentious and unpredictable reactions from the defendant and the public in cases that have received intense press coverage. In South Carolina, the courts leveraged video hearings to keep the peace during the tumultuous aftermath of the Charleston church massacre in June. Closer to Huron County, high profile cases include Kalamazoo Uber driver Jason Dalton, who allegedly shot and killed six people. “The defendant in this case became belligerent and the judge ruled that he’s going to serve the rest of his case from the jail location, but used the video conferencing to bring him in,” said Mackey.
In addition to managing defendants, video conferencing technology also helps courts view evidence and connect with expert witnesses. “If there’s an exhibit or a video that needs to be shared in a courtroom, we can share live content at high definition quality,” Mackey said. “Forensic scientists now don’t have to travel 12 hours to testify in a bunch of different cases. Video allows them to testify in multiple courts in one day.”
When it comes to court procedures, video conferencing technology “Has been a time saver on the court docket,” said Huron County District Judge David B. Herrington in a recent Huron Daily Tribune story. Many judges feel the same; as a result of overall satisfaction with the Polycom systems among judges, Huron County courtrooms will have all new Polycom systems installed in the first part of 2017.
For more information about Polycom video collaboration tools can improve public safety while lowering travel costs, go here.