All courthouses in the 10th Judicial Circuit, led by Presiding Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd, can now conduct video conferences with people confined in jails and prisons throughout Missouri and elsewhere.
The video conferencing equipment for the courthouses in Hannibal, New London, Palmyra, and Paris was provided on July 24 and 25 at the request of Judge Shepherd. Her request was approved by the Office of State Court Administrator (OSCA).
The video conferencing systems include a television, cart, video camera, and three years of maintenance paid for by OSCA, Shepherd reported. The systems in each courthouse are connected to the secure computer network of the Missouri Supreme Court.
It was used on Aug. 1 for two video hearings in the Monroe County Courthouse with confined individuals in the Randolph County Jail. Additional hearings using the new equipment are scheduled on Aug. 5 and Aug. 7, Shepherd said.
Using the video equipment for confined individuals will reduce transportation costs for county taxpayers and decrease the security risks inherent in transporting inmates, she added.
It provides the 10th Circuit “access for any courthouse in the state and any Department of Corrections facility in any state that has video conferencing equipment,” Shepherd reported on Friday. “We are doing a video conference with Illinois next week.”
Local courthouses also have access to all juvenile facilities in Missouri and “any county jail that has video conferencing,” she added. “We are very excited to have access to all the jails, too.
“The main purpose of these hearings is for people who have charges pending or matters pending in the 10th Circuit and they are either confined somewhere within the Circuit or in a Department of Corrections facility, we are able to have the hearing with them without the transportation costs.
“This also increases security, by (preventing) the inmate from doing something that creates a danger to the inmate or other people,” she explained, and it “does not give them the opportunity to obtain contraband.”
Shepherd said, “I am very grateful to the Office of State Courts Administrator for approving the requests of the Tenth Circuit to increase public safety and reduce costs for county taxpayers.”
The equipment is financed by the State of Missouri, she said, “not by any county tax dollars. ... I applied last fall, and it seemed like a long wait, but it was very much worth it.”