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Video conferencing of arraignments and trials at state correctional facilities and courtrooms, both inside and outside Connecticut, has helped attorneys obtain the testimony of witnesses, while reducing transportation costs and security issues for the Department of Correction. And according to those who have used the video conferencing equipment, it may become something of a technological trend for the legal community over the next several years. Correction Department spokeswoman Christina Polce said recently that the department has spent around $140,000 since 1996 to bring video conferencing to four of its correctional facilities in the state, including facilities in Enfield and Cheshire this year. Polce said that the Robinson Correctional Institution and the Cheshire Correctional facility recently obtained the equipment, and that by the end of the month, the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers would also have the video conferencing equipment. The equipment, which includes the Picturetel Venue 2000 and PolyCom video conferencing technology, had also been placed in the Walker Reception & Special Management Unit in Suffield and the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers four years ago. The video conferencing units, which were designed to help conduct certain out-of-state court proceedings such as habeas cases, parole hearings or even minor proceedings like inmate name changes, cost between $10,000 and $30,000 each, Polce said. She added that the equipment was needed to improve public safety and reduce costs for the DOC. “You don’t have to bring inmates out into the community,” Polce said. “And you save on having to pay two and three officers to accompany the inmates.” Patrick Keefe, communications officer at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the equipment also enables doctors to diagnose inmates’ medical conditions from remote locations. According to Temmy Ann Pieszak, Chief of the Public Defender’s Habeas Corpus Service, the equipment is convenient, but is no substitute for an in-court appearance. “I was pleased to have it available so we could get a witness’ testimony,” Pieszak said of using the equipment during Michael Walker v. Warden last year. “But it can be somewhat cumbersome when trying to refresh a witness’ recollection.” Pieszak said in that case, which was held at Tolland Superior Court in Rockville, she was trying to have a witness identify the skin tone of an African American client, but the video monitor’s representation of the actual tone keep changing. “It’s difficult to use for that type of examination,” Pieszak said. “If [a case] doesn’t involve the challenge of a criminal conviction, but is rather of a condition of confinement, then the equipment is beneficial.” Polce said that for the DOC to use video conferencing equipment in conjunction with other court locations, it must be compatible with Integrated Services Digital Network technology.

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