Arraigned Via Video Conferencing

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Within the next year, inmates in the Boone County Jail will appear at their court arraignments via video conferencing. It's a practice that's familiar to those in the Winnebago County Jail.

The county's been using video arraignments for the past 10 years. Instead of being shackled, cuffed, belted and escorted to court for arraignments, Winnebago County inmates stay within the jail and appear before a judge through video conferencing.

"From a security standpoint, you can't beat this. They know there's no place to go and if they start acting up, they're in jail," says Capt. Tim Owens, who’s been working in the Winnebago County Jail for 17 years.

On average 30 Winnebago County prisoners are transported within the jail instead of outside to the courthouse every day. Boone County says they'd like the arraignment process to be that easy for them as well.

"It would be much safer, much quicker, less staff involved in the movement," says Boone County Jail superintendent, John Hare.

Video cameras allow the inmate to see everything that's going on inside the courtroom, just as judges and attorneys can see and hear everything the inmate does through cameras hooked up in the jail.

Boone County Judge Gerald Grubb says by no means are any rights being violated since the technology is only being used for arraignments, and in Boone County, possibly short court appearances.

"We cannot do everything by way of video, whenever the constitutional right of confrontation of witness occurs, that person has to be present so they have that eyeball to eyeball confrontation required by the constitution," says Judge Grubb.

The equipment costs around $40,000, but most say it's a worthwhile investment that Boone County hopes to have by this time next year. The Rock County Jail is also planning to install a video arraignment system in the near future.


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