Video Arraignments: Safer and Cheaper

New technology is making court appearances for jail inmates easier, quicker and cheaper in Cape Girardeau County. Now, computers and cameras in the courtroom are helping crackdown on crime. Even though the defendant and defense attorney aren't in the courthouse, court IS in session.

In Cape County, inmates don't even have to leave the jail to appear before a judge. For two weeks now, Judge Gary Kamp has been presiding over the video arraignments and trial settings which usually only take about five minutes each. The computer video system links him directly to the jail. He can see and hear the defendants and their attorneys and they can see and hear him.

The jail is only about a hundred yards from the courthouse, and up until last week, inmates had to handcuffed and shackled and escorted to the courthouse by two jailers for their arraignments. Sheriff John Jordan says anytime you take the inmates out of the jail, you create a risk for an escape. And taking the inmates out of the jail's guarded environment, also creates more work for jailers.

According to Sheriff Jordan, when the inmates leave the jail, they must be strip searched upon their return to make sure they're not trying to sneak in contraband. Judge Kamp says they've also sped up the process and shortened the amount of time it takes for a case to work its way through the system by a week or two. And getting those inmates out of the jail sooner is a savings for the country as well. Sheriff Jordan and Judge Kamp say they're still working out some bugs in the system. But they're hoping they'll be able to do even more court appearances via video.