News Column

EDITORIAL: Bring more video to courtrooms

July 19, 2014

The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.

July 19--For the sake of long-term savings and safety, Cumberland County officials should advance plans to study the installation an audio/video system in more courtrooms.

The commissioners are expected to vote on authorizing the request for proposals Monday. We urge them to vote yes.

Court Administrator Melissa Calvanelli announced Thursday plans to install such a system this year in at least one county courtroom, but suggested doing two at the same time because it could possibly save money. The county previously installed audio equipment in Courtroom 4 in 2010 and audio and video equipment in Courtroom 6 in 2011 and Courtroom 1 in 2013, she said.

The projected cost for the projects seem high -- $150,000 per courtroom -- but that's without an anticipated discount for doing both at the same time because that discount has not been calculated yet. Officials said money would come from the county's general fund.

Improved audio is needed because some courtrooms are older and not everyone in attendance can hear what is happening.

It's not a requirement that every person in a courtroom must be able to hear the proceedings, but lawyers, the jury, court personnel and the accused should have that capability. And when the technology exists to make it so, it should be given strong consideration.

A more compelling argument can be made for the video equipment. More courtrooms need it.

For basic court functions, it simply saves time and money. County judges are willing to use video conferencing for some simple procedures such as arraignments, Calvanelli said. It lessens the sheriff's office workload because they don't have to transport prisoners, which can also be a safety risk. It takes less time because there is no need to drive a prisoner to court, which also saves on gas.

If Calvanelli's numbers are accurate, from 2011 to 2013, the county is conservatively estimated to have saved $230,000 through video conferencing. That makes the return on investment look pretty attractive.

Any spending by the county requires scrutiny. We think this meets the threshold of being a wise investment.


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Source: Sentinel, The (Carlisle, PA)

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