Brian Peterson's West Virginia Legal Weblog highlighted in a recent post an article that appeared in Washington Technology about the West Virginia court systems use of videoconferencing to reduce prisoner transportation costs for hearings involving inmates housed at the various West Virginia Regional Jail Authority facilities around the state.
The article indicates that the new technology has saved the State of West Virginia $30M in transportation costs during its first year.
I have first hand knowledge of the technology having been involved in a number of circuit court hearings before over inmate related health care matters. Each time the technology has been used it has worked very well for all involved and I can see how it definitely saves substantial time, effort, manpower and money.
Instead of the inmate being driven by one or two officers from the Regional Jail facility to the particular county court house (which in many cases can be a significant drive) the technology allows the inmate to be brought to a central location in the Regional Jail for the hearing and the judge, lawyers and inmate are brought together via videoconferencing.
Another benefit of the new technology is safety. The use of videoconferencing makes it safer for the general public because there is a reduction in the risk of a particular inmate escaping while away from the facility. Also the technology makes it it safer for circuit judges, their staff and others who visit the local court houses. The recent incident in Atlanta involving an inmate who overpowered a court officer, stole her gun and ended up killing three individuals, including Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, highlights the possible benefits of the technology.
For more information on the videoconferencing project you may want to check out the following past press releases from the Supreme Court of Appeals News.
December 26, 2001 - Supreme Court of Appeals Awarded $700,000
September 15, 2004 - West Virginia Supreme Court Awarded
$25,000 Grant for Technology Training