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Video arraignments for county courthouse

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - For the first time Friday, the Comanche County Courthouse arraigned inmates through video conferencing, and the new system didn't cost taxpayers a dime. The inmates will stay in the jail, and appear in court through a video conferencing program similar to Skype. Inmates can enter their plea, be notified of their bond and next court date all from their cell, never having to set foot inside the courthouse.

A grant from The Oklahoma Bar Foundation allowed the county to set up $31,000 worth of equipment in all the courtrooms and the jail.

While part of the reason was to bring the courthouse into the 21st century, District Judge Emmit Tayloe saw this as a way to add a layer of security to the courthouse.
"We have public here to get passports, to get married, to pay their taxes, small claims court,” said Tayloe. “And they shouldn't be exposed to prisoners as much as they are before today."

Before, inmates would go through the elevator doors, walk down the hallways and into one of the courtrooms to be arraigned. With the new system, that will lower the number of inmates walking through the halls.

William Hobbs, Comanche County Jail Administrator says they move the inmates in and out of the courthouse about 150 times a day. With video arraignments, that number will cut in half.

"Any time we take any of the inmates out of the secure area of the jail we are at risk for something,” said Hobbs. “Potential escapes, assaults or interaction with the victim of some kind. We don't know so we have to be ready for any of that."

Hobbs says this system will also keep the jailers working in the jail instead of shuttling the inmates to the courthouse at least twice a day.

Judge Tayloe says on all other court appearances, inmates will still visit the court house in person much like other counties that have implemented this system.

"It was built in I believe 1974,” said Tayloe. “So for over 40 years, we've done it this way. And I knew there was a better way, and I think we pulled that off."

Something that really saves the county time and money is they did install this system in the juvenile detention center, which is not on site like the county jail is. Judge Tayloe says he hopes this will increase the confidentiality of these cases that deal with minors.

Judge Tayloe says they also can use this technology for more than just arraignments. Lawyers can make presentations on it during trial, and an inmate can talk to their lawyer from the jail faster than meeting in person.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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