Video Conferencing to Begin in Oconee County Courtrooms
Today, the technology efforts of the South Carolina Judicial Department are achieving another great success with the implementation of Videoconferencing in Oconee County courtrooms. With today’s emphasis on security, Videoconferencing is now an essential tool in the judicial, legal, and penal environments. Oconee County has implemented the virtual courtroom; instead of bringing the inmate into the courtroom, the County is taking the courtroom to the inmate. Through an Internet Protocol (IP) connection, a live video signal is established between Circuit Judge Alex Macaulay’s courtroom and a video conference room in the Oconee County Law Enforcement Center. Another live video signal has also been established between Chief Magistrate Becky Gerrard’s courtroom in Seneca and the Law Enforcement Center. All three sites also have the ability to connect with one another at the same time.
“This court technology initiative is just one of the many in which the South Carolina Judicial Department is working,” said Chief Justice Jean H.Toal. “Oconee County is embracing this initiative and is using it to improve the court system while also serving as a model for other counties in the state.”
Video equipment at each location is identical: the inmate and each Judge have a viewing device (TV or monitor), a microphone, a camera and the necessary computer software to conduct these hearings. While the camera in the jail’s conference room will remain stationary, the inmate will be able to view the Judge or whoever is speaking in the Courtroom.
In preparation for the hearing, the inmate is escorted from the holding cell into a conference room at the Law Enforcement Center where a TV monitor shows a close-up of Judge Macaulay or Judge Gerrard. The Judge remains at his/her bench and interacts with the inmate.
Oconee County implemented the video courtroom to help reduce security risks in public buildings, to reduce inmate transfers between the Law Enforcement Center and the Courthouses, and to reduce the number of officers necessary for inmate transfers. South Carolina Judicial Department has worked with Oconee County Clerk of Court Sallie Smith, Judge Alex Macaulay, Chief Magistrate Becky Gerrard, Solicitor Chrissy Adams, Sheriff James Singleton and Information Technology Director Richard Reeves and their staffs to successfully complete this project.