County To Explore Videoconferencing In Lieu Of Inmate Transport
To reduce inmate movement for court appearances and visiting purposes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved videoconferencing for the Sheriff’s Department. Videoconference technology will begin for the most medically challenged inmates incarcerated in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, announced Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
“The goal is to reduce jail overcrowding, achieve savings through increased efficiencies across the criminal justice system and improve public safety by reducing inmate movement inside and outside of the jail confines,” Antonovich said.
Video visitation will be established for high-risk inmates who require individual escorting to and from visiting areas and monitoring during the visitation at both secure and public visiting areas at Men’s' Central Jail, Century Regional Detention Facility, North County Correctional Facility, Twin Towers and San Dimas Sheriff's Station.
“This is an action that the Supervisor has been working on with the Sheriff’s Department for some time,” said Tony Bell, spokesperson for Supervisor Antonovich. “We’re always looking for ways to reduce congestion and confusion and the costs associated with transporting inmates to and from county jail for arraignments and visitation and other necessary appointments which cost money for the taxpayers and sometimes can be a threat to public safety.”
“We want to see how the program works and get all the bugs out of it before we run it in other facilities,” he said. “There’s no reason why an inmate at Pitchess who has to be arraigned downtown or somewhere else in the country should have to have a sheriff’s deputy drive him down, taking him out of custody and his secure environment to the streets, into the courthouse and have him waiting in the hallway,” Bell said. “It puts more cars on the streets at more cost to the taxpayers.”
The first stage of the video arraignment program will primarily include inmates who are severely medically challenged, occupy the most costly beds in the jail system and are more challenging to transport to and from court. This pilot program will be available at the Twin Towers and the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown -- Department 30.
The second stage will include other high volume arraignment courtrooms and additional jail facilities that may include Compton Court, Central Jail Arraignment Court and the newly constructed LAPD Metro Jail Facility. $300,000 will be allocated by the Information Technology Fund to support this program.
Bell said the Sheriff’s Department is anxious to get the program started, but are proceeding with caution.
“It will not be this year, but I would look for it to start next year,” he said. “Perhaps if it is successful, we can push the Sheriff’s Department to implement it. If we can save taxpayer money, increase public safety and reduce congestion on our roads, we will get them to implement the program as soon as possible.”