Oklahoma legislator hopes to expand video conferencing in courtrooms

Wednesday, October 6 2010

Representative Ben Sherrer of Oklahoma is encouraging his home state to cut back on transportation costs by utilizing available video conferencing technology to allow criminals to appear virtually in court.

Sherrer, a Democrat from Pryor Creek, said he hopes to introduce legislation next year that would make courtroom video conferencing a reality for certain types of criminal trials, the Oklahoman reports.

"If we go ahead and do have some type of enabling legislation that justifies this and the types of proceedings in which it can be used, that will spur some movement within the court system to go ahead and either invest further in their technology or expand the use of the technology that they already have installed in the courthouse," said Sherrer, who conducted an interim study on the subject before the House of Representatives Public Safety Committee.

"A lot of the sheriff's departments would find that it would ultimately profit them to fund the technology in their county," he continued. "Not to say it's their responsibility, but if we have the authority for the courts to use this more, it's the sheriff's departments that are really going to be the big winners."

Video conferencing has allowed the state to cut back drastically on the number of inmates who must be transported to courtrooms for hearings, from 150 to 170 every day a few years ago to just 50 to 60 each day at present. In addition, the systems are relatively inexpensive, costing an estimated $34,000 to set up per courtroom, the paper reports.