Stephens Co Courthouse upgrade changes arraignment process - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Stephens Co Courthouse upgrade changes arraignment process

A $12,000 upgrade now allows Stephens County judges to arraign inmates from the jail. (Source KSWO) A $12,000 upgrade now allows Stephens County judges to arraign inmates from the jail. (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) -A new tool at the Stephens County Courthouse was recently added and is helping to keep employees and visitors safe.

In December, the Stephens County Sheriff's Office purchased a new video system that has enabled the department to isolate inmates during their initial court appearance. Before, inmates were handcuffed and shackled before being brought into the courtroom to see the judge. Now, Sheriff Wayne McKinney says the inmates are arraigned from an inside the jail.

Sheriff McKinney says the new system helps them increase the safety of patrons and the inmates. With the new piece of technology, the sheriff says things will run a lot smoother while also increasing the safety of deputies.

Sheriff McKinney says the video monitoring system prevents inmates from making contact with the general public and cuts down on flight risks. He says inmate safety can also be at risk when emotions run high in the courthouse.

"They see a victim of one of these guys and you have a near confrontation with a victim or family member that's a security issue," Sheriff McKinney explained.

He says the video monitors won't be used in all court cases, just for arraignments. But, the court will make an exception for special cases, like protective orders and child sexual assault cases.

On any given day, it could take deputies nearly 45 minutes to get each inmate through the arraignment process. And with as many as 15 inmates to process, the manpower can really add up.

"That would require a lot of time on the judges docket. Not only that, but it would take two or three deputies to transport them," Sheriff McKinney said.

The new device has made things a little easier, and safer for his deputies by limiting the amount of one-on-one interaction.

"The process is a lot faster not having to move inmates up and down to the courtrooms and they stay within the confines of the jail," Sheriff McKinney said.

As an added bonus, neither the department nor the citizens of Stephens County had to foot the bill for the $12,000 system. It was entirely paid for with a grant Sheriff McKinney applied for.

Stephens County is not the only county in the state to use the video conference technology, Comanche County also uses the tool.

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