POSTED BY Carolyn Kenniston

While video conferencing is not a new technology, it is for the Rappahoannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail in Virginia (“Jail”), which just began using the teleconferencing system to allow inmates to handle minor matters with the court. In August 2014, the Jail began to use such practice and the reviews have thus far been overwhelmingly positive.

Being able to use video conferencing in the courtroom provides numerous benefits to all parties involved. Attorneys no longer need to commute to the jail and back to meet with their client or wait for their client to be transported from the jail to the courtroom. Attorneys now can appear in the courtroom, while their client remains in jail.  This process allows for the attorney’s client to appear on the television screen, and enables them to communicate, see, and hear everything going on in the proceeding.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have been pleased with the way the technology is working. This technology has not been used for trials, sentencing, pleadings or contested motions, but rather it is being used currently for preliminary matters. The hope is that as the usage increases and the technology becomes more uniform in the courtroom, that it can be incorporated into more complex courtroom proceedings.

Additionally, video conferencing in the courtroom is beneficial because of its cost saving abilities. For example, the cost associated with transporting inmates from the jail to the courthouse can be eradicated. It is very common for courthouses to be distant from jails, it can take awhile for the inmates to get to court, and video conferencing solves this problem. Therefore, the time spent on transportation can be now be allocated towards the inmates communicating and taking part in the proceeding.

Further, video conferencing provides security. It can be beneficial for both parties when an inmate is in a separate room from the judge or parties to a case. This allows the risk to the public, detention officers, or court personnel to be minimized.

Nonetheless, while video conferencing may appear overwhelmingly beneficial, there are also some drawbacks. For instance, some judges fear that the quality of the video feed could hinder the proceeding and create error. Also, technical problems may also arise making the waiting period worse than waiting for an inmate to be transported from jail. While these concerns may be valid, it is likely that the overall benefits to using video conferencing in the courtroom outweigh the drawbacks, and such technology should be implemented in more courtrooms and jails around the country.

 

Blogger Bio: Carolyn Kenniston is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 2L at Suffolk Law. She holds a B.A. in Legal Studies from Lasell College.

 

 

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