iPads to replace in-person arraignments

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Use of technology in courts aims to save taxpayer dollars

A new way of holding legal proceedings is coming to Barry County Judicial Center.

The Barry County Sheriff's office, in conjunction with the circuit clerk's office, is planning to begin using iPads in the jail to hold arraignments via video teleconferencing, which would eliminate the need and expense of transporting inmates to the Judicial Center for proceedings.

"We're going to purchase iPads for arraignments, and that way, we can take our inmates to an office in our jail and do the arraignment right there," said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff.

Epperly said the county has attempted to implement the idea before, but it did not pan out with the particular technology used.

"We've tried a couple times, but I believe this system will work," he said. "All we have to do is put them in front of the judge. It's no different than if they were standing right in front of him."

Craig Williams, Barry County circuit clerk, said the new practice will save taxpayers money.

"It saves money because they won't have to get prisoners and bring them over," he said. "Also, male and female prisoners are transported separately, which takes more time."

Considering that, on average, there are three or four arraignments per day, transportation to proceedings adds up to costs in time, gas and labor.

"To do an arraignment, you have to take the jailer out of the jail for at least 15-30 minutes," Williams said. "But, with this set up, he can stay and be sitting at his desk the entire time. It's another form of technology that's available."

Williams said he believed other workers within the 39th circuit are using the iPads, in some form or fashion. What makes Barry County different, requiring transportation of prisoners, is its jail is in a separate location from its courthouse.

"A lot of the county jails are built-in with the courthouse, like Stone county," he said.

Before implementing the plan, Williams said he and Judge Robert Foulke tested the app on their iPads first.

"We tested it out between iPads here," Williams said. "And, it worked perfect."

Williams said the app will be used in conjunction with their polycom system.

"We use polycoms all the time," he said. "We purchased a polycom unit several years ago, and that saves the county money."

The process will work by first scheduling a meeting through the computer, much like Skype, but over secure airwaves. Then, the judge and jail will input a meeting number.

All that needs to take place to start holding arraignments on the iPads is the purchase of a second iPad device for the jail.

That cost is estimated to be between $600 to $700.

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