Rayburn inmates now go to court digitally

Published 8:50 am Monday, October 6, 2014

Washington Parish courtrooms joined the digital age last week.

With a simple click of a button, Rayburn Correctional Center inmates have the opportunity to make their court appearance via video rather than having to be transported physically to the courthouse by corrections officials.

“For obvious reasons, there are two good things about this Video Court system,” Rayburn Public Information Officer Lynn McCloud said. “The Video Court system saves the state money, and we won’t have to take the offender to court. Plus it’s just much more secure than having to get on the highway. This has definitely helped in reducing the number of trips we’ve had to make to courtrooms.”

The video center is located in the conference room in back of the prison’s law library. Sixteen parishes in the state and the three Federal District courts are currently participating in the Video Court system.

Rayburn has had the system in place for approximately two years. The first two pilot cases of inmates using the system to connect with Washington Parish judges were Monday and Thursday. One was a criminal proceeding while the other was a civil matter.

“It went off without a hitch,” Rayburn Offender Counsel Charles Boyd said. “They tested the technology first and everything was working properly.”

McCloud said the program is ideal.

“It’s all connected to the courthouses around the state. We have more joining up all the time,” McCloud said. “Once judges try it out, they will find out it benefits them.”

McCloud said the system is simple to use.

“All you do is go on and look up the directory like for any other telephone number. It rings like a telephone,” McCloud said. “It’s the same system some companies use for conference calling. The sound and video quality is pretty good.”

McCloud said there is little difference between being in court physically or by video.

“It’s just like a regular courtroom and just like any other court proceeding,” McCloud said. “The judge is in charge of the proceedings. It can last as long or as short as the judge wants it to. It’s just like a regular courtroom, only the offender is sitting in front of the camera and the judge.”

On the door leading to the video conference center is a schedule that lists what inmate is about to appear before a judge. Boyd said the video conference center is a busy place.

“We average about five or six judicial hearings per week,” Boyd said. “It’s being used a lot.”