Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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Superior Court, Sheriff Launch Video Arraignment Project

Allen Superior Court and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department this week will launch a video appearance project that will make the transportation of inmates for court hearings less costly and safer for all involved.

Starting Thursday (May 5, 2016), many Superior Court Criminal Division initial hearings will be held via video connection to the Allen County Jail. Previously, defendants were transported in person from the jail to participate in those hearings. The new video appearance capability, installed in Courtroom 3 of the Allen County Courthouse, will cut the number of prisoners brought to the Courthouse by about 50 percent – equal to 60 inmates a week.

“Initial hearings are often brief, uncomplicated and technical in nature,” said Judge Frances C. Gull, Administrative Judge of the Allen Superior Court Criminal Division. “A defendant in custody needs access to these proceedings, but does not always have to be there in person. Video arraignment gives us a new option that makes the process safer and more efficient.”

Video appearance will be an option for the Court for arraignment in criminal matters and initial hearings in revocation of alternative sentencing programs. Video appearances will occur daily.

Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux paid for the project’s fixed and ongoing costs from the Sheriff’s Commissary Fund. Costs included four new computers and 27-inch monitors that allow the Judge, attorneys and inmates to clearly view the proceeding, as well as modifications to a room at the jail from which inmates will appear via video. Forty-two inch monitors in the courtroom will allow full public access as well. Hardware requirements, such as the minimum size of monitors, are established in Indiana Supreme Court Trial Rule 14.

“Since we spend less on fuel, on vehicles and on personnel, there are certainly savings involved when inmates can appear in court via video,” Gladieux said. “But the real benefit comes in terms of public safety. Keeping inmates in the secure environment of the jail is better for the public, for the inmates and for the personnel who transport them.”

Instead of building a stand-alone video system, video appearances will be done over the Internet via CourtCall, a remote appearance service. CourtCall is already used in Superior Court Civil Division matters to allow attorneys to call into certain hearings. CourtCall is also providing hardware to connect the courtroom and the jail.

CourtCall will charge $400 per month for each of the two locations (the jail and the Courthouse) to manage the service, also paid from the Sheriff’s Commissary Account.

This is the first step in a video appearance capability that the Court may be able to expand in the future, Gull added. The system being set up for initial hearings can utilized for other needs and may expand to other courtrooms as needs arise.