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Video conferencing in prisons should see more use

Video conferencing in prisons should see more use

Over the past year we have taken a look at many environments in which video conferencing has proven itself to be an effective tool for communication. The benefits of implementing this technology in businesses and institutions worldwide are numerous and include cost efficiency, time efficiency, safety, convenience, and much more.

One such area of interest that we have examined is the use of video conferencing in prisons. Many governments and even private prison systems around the globe have implemented systems wherein inmates can connect with outside parties, including family and friends, courts, officers, and other personnel, without leaving the confines of the prison.

The benefits seem obvious. It is much more cost-efficient to remove the need for patrolled travel by connecting inmates remotely. This is especially crucial when inmates need to appear for court hearings and proceedings. However, although the systems themselves have been implemented, many areas seem to say that they are being underutilized. The Deccan Chronicle out of India reports:

“At present, about 150 police officials are being deployed daily for taking prisoners from Poojappura central prison alone, whereas the total number of cops deployed for escorting prisoners daily across the state would be over 1,000. At least two police officials will have to escort each prisoner, while the number of cops may go up to five in accordance with the notoriety of the prisoner.

The article notes that it may be due to the fact that legal teams are working against the use of these tools. It is understandable – or at least expected – that court room and prison video conferencing may be met with some backlash. However, the benefits definitely outweigh the concerns. Quality of modern systems is more than sufficient to support a clear and well-communicated proceeding. We hope that this press prompts these systems to increase usage of these effective tools.

Video conferencing has the potential to save governments and private prisons a large sum of money by offering competitive alternatives to travel of inmates to court cases and other hearings. The technology has been implemented in many places around the world, not the smallest of which being a number of prisons in South India. A recent report, however, shows that these video conferencing systems have hardly been used at all and are collecting dust. Toby Antony of the New Indian Express reports:

“…the prison wardens in the four districts said that the system has not even been used once for the said purpose. The facility has been used only in the Ernakulam sub-jail for the trial of the Bangalore bomb blast case. One of the superintendents of the district jail said that the system has not been used since its inception two years ago. “

The article suggests that the government is blaming “technological snags” for the lack of use, but no specifics have been reported. The question therefore remains: why have prisons and court rooms failed to take advantage of this opportunity? There is a clear incentive to save money, and video conferencing can do just that.

The reasons may be varied. There is a somewhat understandable aversion to using such new technology when handling such important cases, but video conferencing has seen use and success in high-profile environments all over the world. Technological hiccups are to be expected, but should certainly not be prominent enough to outweigh the benefits of using the system.

We hope that bringing this news to light will urge these locations to consider taking a second look at their video conferencing tools.

It is an unfortunate fact that many children have parents or other family members who are spending time in prisons. These trying situations are worsened by the fact that some jails no longer permit in-person visitors to their premises. Thankfully, there are now technological tools on the market that can create a strong link between inmates and their loved ones without the use of in-person meetings. Video conferencing has become a presence all over the justice system of the United States and in other countries. It can be used as an effective, safer, and cheaper alternative to traveling for visitation, court hearings, and other considerations. The result is that children and other parties benefit from the ability to stay in touch with their loved ones even when they cannot meet in person. An article from Youth Today elaborates:

“Correctional facilities in more than 20 states currently have or plan to have video technology in place, according to a report released by the research and advocacy organization The Sentencing Project. Video technologys popularity in facilities is driven by a desire to cut staff costs, to reduce security risks created by in-person visits, and in some cases, to raise revenue.”

Although some would argue that it is more of a bandage than an actual solution, video conferencing-based visits pose other benefits as well. They improve safety and limit the amount of law enforcement and correctional officers required during a visit; they also provide family members and other loved ones with a way to get in touch without traveling potentially long distances.

We hope that video conferencing continues to grow as a  standard tool in prisons everywhere.

The benefits of remote communications technology are manifold, but one of the primary reasons why businesses and institutions all over the world have adopted whyGo corporate account and similar systems for comprehensive solutions to remote collaboration is because it saves money. Travel is an expensive habit in this day and age – whether you’re paying to fill up your gas tank, buying plane tickets, or spending money on buses and taxis, the costs add up quickly and they can be a daily nuisance. With video conferencing, you don’t always need to be traveling. You can perform duties remotely and achieve the same results, often faster than otherwise. That’s why prisons and court rooms all over the world have begun adopting video conferencing systems to improve practices and save money.

A prime example

A recent article published by Dallas News takes a thorough and interesting look at how video conferencing has changed the shape of Dallas County court rooms and their practices. Reporter Andrew Pantazi writes:

“Videoconferencing for some court proceedings is expected to save Dallas County at least hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The county doesnt have to transport inmates as often, which saves time and money because sheriffs deputies dont have to escort the inmates. It also reduces the inherent risk of escapes.”

The article focuses on the plight of a Dallas County woman who pleaded and was sentenced within two minutes and 18 seconds without ever stepping foot outside of the county jail. It is truly amazing how much time and money this simple addition of technology has saved – before, these proceedings coupld take extremely long periods of time, because it can be very difficult to make all of the arrangements necessary to transport and represent a defendant.

Unlikely Benefits

Saving money isn’t the only reason that video conferencing has taken off in court rooms and jails. It’s also a great way to increase security. Inmates generally require a police escort or a handful of them to transport them to their hearings and so on; when the inmate is deemed dangerous, this is all the more risky. Now, police can focus their attention on more important and pressing matters while jail officials help facilitate the video conference that connects inmates to judges.

It’s also worth noting that video conferencing cuts down on carbon footprints. For counties and regions all over the world, this is hugely important, and court room proceedings are one of the unlikely places where making a change could make a huge difference. Especially in rural areas where transporting someone from a prison to a court room could mean a couple hours’ worth of driving, this becomes very important.

Looking Ahead

Video conferencing technology isn’t in every court room just yet, but every time a new story like the one from Dallas County is published, the idea gets more publicity and more momentum. We can only hope that other counties, states, and regions adopt this system as a more reasonable solution to a complicated problem.

The use of video conferencing in prisons has been a subject of recent discussion, as it has been applied to high-profile cases where it was deemed more safe to connect an inmate with a court remotely rather than through physical transportation. But safety isn’t the only reason that video conferencing has a place in prisons. Of course, it can be used as a convenience and as a money-saver to connect inmates with hearings related to their crimes, but not every application of video conferencing is without its benefits for the inmates themselves. The International Herald Tribune reports that inmates in Karachi Central Jail in Pakistan have been using video conferencing to connect with their loved ones.

The story is remarkable in that the jail was not provided with any government funds for this facility. It collected money on its own to provide inmates with a safe and reasonable way of communicating with family members and loved ones. Reporter Asif Ali Syed elaborates on the system, explaining:

“The inmates will be able to talk with their families, relatives and lawyers. It will be available for those prisoners whose relatives cannot visit because they are not either living in Pakistan or who are too ill to come in person. It could prove to be a boon for women if they can’t come to jail for certain reasons.”

The system put in place will also help prison officials monitor goings-on more closely, and it could reportedly help lower instances of bribery that have been a concern in the past. It’s a sensible solution to a number of concerns in the jail; hopefully, this story will bring awareness to the potential for video conferencing facilities to have a positive effect in prisons all over the world.

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