Macon – TeleCourt video conferencing technology will soon be available in Macon Judicial Circuit courtrooms.
Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke announced Monday that his office pledged earlier this month to use $15,000 seized from criminals to pay start-up costs for the system.
The Macon Judicial Circuit will be the third jurisdiction in Georgia to install the system which connects courtrooms with Georgia prisons, eliminating the need for inmates to be driven to court for certain hearings. Instead, inmates can remain in prison and interact with the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and court reporter through a secure video link. Adjacent to the prison courtrooms, inmates have access to a private room equipped with an unmonitored phone for privileged conversations with an attorney.
Barring delays presented by social distancing and quarantines related to COVID-19, it’s expected that the system could be installed in the next few weeks.
“This was a smart thing to do even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, it’s even more vital that we have this technology as soon as possible,” Cooke said. “This system will not only save time and money. It will provide enhanced security and public safety during our current crisis and for years to come.”
The video conferencing technology was installed by the Georgia Department of Corrections in all Georgia prisons last summer following a several months-long pilot program. Discussions about bringing the system to the Macon Judicial Circuit began in January.
According to Georgia Department of Corrections data, local deputies transported 203 inmates for more than 6,000 miles to bring them to court in 2019.
In addition to saving manpower, the system will reduce security risks. Scheduling for arraignments and motions for new trial can be streamlined.
“It will save both the court and law enforcement a lot of manpower,” said Macon Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Howard Simms. “I appreciate D.A. Cooke being willing to cover the upfront costs. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get the process this far along so quickly.”
It’s possible that the system could be expanded to include local jails, further reducing the need to transport inmates to a courthouse for pre-trial and post-conviction hearings.
The Macon Judicial Circuit is comprised of Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.
For more news from the District Attorney’s Office, follow on Twitter @DA_DavidCooke, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DADavidCooke and on Instagram at da_davidcooke.
Contact: Amy Leigh Womack