FREEHOLDER CHRISTOPHER RAFANO
ANNOUNCES SUPERIOR COURT VIDEO CONFERENCING
IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY
MARCH 28, 2001
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Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano today announced the implementation of video conferencing service between the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick and the Superior Court Criminal Division located in New Brunswick. Once again, Middlesex County is at the cutting edge in utilizing state of the art technology to enhance efficiency to reduce the burden on our property tax payers,” Rafano said.
Freeholder Rafano added, “The use of video conferencing technology in criminal courtrooms is an effective method of improving court efficiency, enhancing the safety of the public and reducing the taxpayer costs associated with the functioning of the criminal justice system in Middlesex County. Video arraignment technology has the support of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Judges of the Superior Court, the Middlesex County Prosecutor, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the New Jersey Public Defender’s Office, and the Middlesex County Sheriff.”
“With the cooperation and help of Warden Michael T. Abode, Presiding Criminal Judge Barnett E. Hoffman and Assignment Judge Robert Longhi we have put into place a program where inmates can now be arraigned and have bail motions heard and pre-trial motions conducted via Video Tele-Conferencing. Starting today, a Superior Court Judge sitting in his or her courtroom will be able to process a defendant in a criminal matter without the prisoner having to be transported from the Adult Correction Facility in North Brunswick.”
Each time an inmate is brought from the correction facility to the Superior Court in New Brunswick, that inmate must be processed for discharge, transported to the courthouse, guarded in a holding room, transported back to the facility and reprocessed back into the jail. Additional, related costs include record keeping and vehicle maintenance. Freeholder Rafano explained that, “The total cost averages about $200.00 per trip. Last year there were approximately 1,500 inmate appearances for Pre-Trial Conferences, Arraignments and Bail Motion Hearings. We are projecting that since many transports are done in groups, we will eliminate approximately 500 total trips. Therefore, the cost savings to our property tax payers will be close to $100,000.00 per year at today’s prices.”
Rafano continued, “This program means more than just the cost savings. Every time an inmate is moved, there is a security risk. The residents of our county will be safer and the inmates themselves will be more secure by having the courts available to them without having to leave the correctional facility more than is absolutely necessary.”
Tele-conferencing will help to reduce the backlog in the courts. For example a Judge can do arraignments between trials or as his or her calendar permits. Warden Michael T. Abode today expressed his enthusiasm for the newly installed Video Tele-Conferencing links with the Courts, “The county has installed special equipment at the Correction Center in North Brunswick to link with the Superior Court in New Brunswick and any other authorized Municipal or Superior Court in the State.”
“Each inmate court appearance that is conducted with the Video Tele-Conferencing equipment eliminates the need to process the inmate out of the building for transport to court and then saves the costs of processing the re-admission back into the institution. This could lead to substantial savings each year as use of the system grows.”
The Warden also expressed his satisfaction in being one of the first three county correctional centers to implement this new cost savings technology.
The Honorable Barnett E. Hoffman, Presiding Criminal Judge of the Superior Court, commented on the program. “It is expected that the other criminal courts will have such video capabilities soon. The procedure is going to be used for bail hearings and various status conferences for inmates housed at the county jail as well as conferences with inmates at the various state institutions. The video system will result in savings to the Sheriff’s Department and Corrections Department relating to transportation of prisoners as well as reduce congestion in the courthouse holding cells.”
“The computer hardware, software and wiring for the Superior Court and the Adult Corrections Center were acquired at no cost to Middlesex County as a result of a grant by the State Department of Corrections. Middlesex County is one of only three counties in the State of New Jersey that has implemented Video Tele-Conferencing in their Superior Court,” Freeholder Rafano said.
Khalid Anjum, Middlesex County Information Technology Director, described the equipment being used. “In the Video Tele-Conferencing set-up, the Court and the Jail are connected with two separate video systems, allowing the Judge, prosecutor, attorney’s and detainees to communicate effectively and efficiently over a digital network. The equipment used includes color monitors with live split screen capacity, voice activated color camera’s, an audio/video recording system, secure phones and fax machine for defendant defense counsel use, and a touch panel that allows the judge to control all system functions. A digital, 3-line ISDN BRI interface will provide near TV video quality @ 384 kbps @ 20 – 30 frames per second conforming to H.320 and G.722 of the ITU standards.”