Maryland prisons to use video conferencing for inmate health

Tuesday, October 19 2010

Prisons in Maryland are looking to keep their costs down by instituting video conferencing technology in several courthouses and correctional facilities.

The program would require that video conferencing equipment be installed in several prisons to connect the institutions to hospitals, courthouses and other entities that do business with inmates. Currently, the prison video conferencing system is being tested in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the Associated Press reports.

"We've made huge strides in helping inmates control chronic conditions, such as diabetes and HIV," said Mark A. Vernarelli, spokesman of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "We manage these conditions closely, which in the long run saves taxpayer money because we will hope to spend less money on sick inmates (and) hospital trips."

Vernarelli added that video conferencing would allow doctors at any of a number of prominent Baltimore hospitals to consult on certain inmate medical cases, would would be "very helpful not only to reduce court trips, but maybe hospital trips as well."

Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, hopes that the initiative will both lower the costs associated with transporting criminals and help improve public safety by never requiring that prisoners leave their cells.

"Anytime you put officers and an inmate in a van, things can happen," Maynard told the AP.

Correctional facilities around the country are recognizing the benefits of video conferencing, such as some in Georgia and Nevada, among others.