A new camera system tightens courtroom security and pushes cases through more quickly while saving money.
When an inmate makes his first court appearance now, he faces a camera instead of a judge. He never leaves the jail and has no chance to get away.
"Once they go out those doors, there's an escape risk. They could be targets from families of victims of the alleged crimes," explained Maj. Sandy Johnson, Wilson jail administrator.
The judge can talk to five or more people at a time with this system. It is faster, but the jail says tighter security is the biggest benefit.
It is also cheaper because jailers can concentrate on the jail itself instead of the trip to the courtroom.
"Sometimes we've had to call in as many as five off-duty personnel to transfer these inmates to the courts. If we can simply take them into the closed-circuit TV room, then that certainly cuts down on the number of inmates going to the courts," said Johnson.
Not everyone is happy about the change. Andrew Ward, who came to the jail to bail out a friend Monday afternoon, says the camera dehumanizes the process.
"If you're going to court for your first appearance and you have to show up in front of a video camera, I mean that's kind of blatant," said Ward.
The system cost about $10,000 to set up, but the jail could save that much on overtime alone by the end of the year.
Supporters say it is a simple way of using technology to make justice easier and faster.
The camera is used only for first appearances now, but it will be expanded later to include child custody and domestic violence cases.
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