Telejustice, the use of video conferencing to conduct judicial proceedings, is becoming progressively more popular in US cities for select hearings. Telejustice brings many benefits to the judicial system, primarily cost reduction and speeding up the judicial process as a whole with the accused present in court via video conference. Many individuals, including the Pennsylvania First Judicial District’s director of courtroom proceedings, Michael Spaziano, think that all guilty pleas should be conducted via video.
New York and San Diego are among the first major cities in the US to implement video conferencing in their court system. Pew Charitable Trusts reports that cases that normally take 120 days to resolve are down to 10-days using video conferencing in lieu of in-person court appearances. These hearings also help defendants avoid unnecessary days in jail, reporting decreases from 1,500 to 859 days from 2008-2010. In Pennsylvania there is a push to implement these video calls in many other departments including traffic violations, stipulated trials, and negotiated sentencings.
Telejustice also saves cities around the world millions of dollars. A 2011 study of the Pennsylvania Courts states that Philadelphia saves $550,000 a month by staying away from transporting prisoners from jails to hearings (an average cost per-trip is $79 from a local facility and $350 from a state institution). This totals to having saved the state more than $1.7 million in 2011 alone. Installing this video conference system cost Pennsylvania $4.2 million from 2008-2011 when they added 488 units. The state recently received a federal grant to incorporate these systems in four to eight more courtrooms (about $20,000 per courtroom).
Looking worldwide, India has taken telejustice on a nationwide level with a goal of bringing 300 jails and 2,000 courts together. This allows judges, court officials, legal professionals, inmates and witnesses to communicate face-to-face as if they were in one room. Prior to implementing the video conferencing solution, the Indian police department was spending US$8,827 per day to escort prisoners. That number is down to about US$37 per month. Polycom, the global leader in unified communications, was selected to deploy video conferencing equipment across India. This incentive alone compromises 25% of Polycom’s revenue.
Singapore has taken video conferencing beyond the courtroom (which has been used there since 1999) by implementing a program known as “tele-visit”. This system allows prisoners to communicate remotely with visitors from various Prisons Link Centers.