This report reviews the conclusions of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Court Appearances Through Telepresence Advisory Workshop (telepresence workshop), which met in November 2018 to explore the potential benefits and challenges of telepresence technology and identify innovative solutions for addressing concerns about the use of these technologies for criminal court appearances.
Telepresence technology enables an individual or group to appear in a court proceeding from a remote location. Telepresence technology has been used in courts since the 1970s; however, its potential for benefits and disadvantages in various contexts has not been fully examined. The telepresence workshop involved 12 core participants who included five members from an academic, training, or research institute; five local court practitioners; and two staff members from state offices that oversee court services. The telepresence workshop advised that research is needed in the following areas: 1) options for improving network connectivity, best practices, and minimum standards for audio setup; 2) assessment of the impact of telepresence technology on the experiences of witnesses and victims; 3) the effect of telepresence technology on defendants' experiences with the court process and perceptions of procedural justice; 4) the appropriate levels of video quality and image size; and 5) whether there is a difference in cross-examinations that occur in person compared with those conducted via telepresence technology. Other issues mentioned as needing to be addressed are the development of standards for the setup of telepresence systems, a training curriculum for the various court personnel who interact with telepresence technology, and the development of model configurations to guide equipment purchases.
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