For many years, Clinton County Municipal Court has been conducting hearings for jail inmates through closed-circuit television. Since Judge Carey obtained that first system, the county has saved many thousands of dollars in transportation costs for inmates.
That system, however, is showing its age. The equipment has needed replacement for years, but I have been very reluctant to spend local tax dollars to pay for it.
This month, however, a grant opportunity became available from the Supreme Court. The grant pays for the cost of remote court technology. I immediately applied for this grant, and we received $23,996.62.
This money will pay for a whole new system in the courtroom, a new secure system in the Clinton County Jail, and all the links in between. It will also allow us to conduct hearings for people in other locations, like prisons or the state mental hospital, without the cost of transporting them to Wilmington for court.
In addition to technology for holding hearings, the grant also provides a secure remote link for lawyers to talk to clients in jail from the Municipal Court. Until now, the only way for lawyers to talk with their clients was on a recorded telephone line.
With the new technology, lawyers will be able to have a private face-to-face conversation with clients in jail without going to the jail.
All of this comes at NO COST to Clinton County taxpayers. The entire cost of this system upgrade is paid by the grant.
This is the second technology grant we have received this year.
Next week, we are installing an upgraded case management system. That $60,625.80 grant will enable us to vastly improve our services. It includes, among many other things, the ability to send text reminders to people about their hearings.
Other courts have reduced warrants by 60% by implementing text reminders.
We began sending court documents and hearing notices by email earlier this year. Since quarantine began, we expanded this, and now we can send email documents to any person who requests it.
We are working hard to make court available to everyone, even during these hard times. On the day I wrote this article, we held a remote video hearing which allowed lawyers in four locations to all participate in the same hearing.
We will continue to grow and use technology in every way possible to reduce costs as we increase the quality of the services we provide.
Mike Daugherty is Judge of the Clinton County Municipal Court.