This article discusses technology that enables remote criminal court appearance, and considers how this telepresence trend has impacted individual rights and the effectiveness of courtroom processes.
Technology that enables people to appear remotely in criminal court has benefited institutions as well as individuals. Judicial telepresence can, for example, allow an incarcerated defendant or witness to appear for a hearing without leaving prison or jail grounds, make fearful witnesses less afraid by sparing them the need to be in the physical presence of a menacing defendant at a trial or hearing, and allow courts to save the costs associated with certain in-person appearances. The judicial telepresence trend, however, has surged ahead of our understanding of its impact on individual rights and the effectiveness of courtroom processes. To fill that knowledge gap, a panel of court-process experts convened by NIJ probed the benefits and burdens of judicial telepresence technology with an eye toward research on innovative solutions.
The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2013-MU-CX-0003, awarded to RAND Corporation. The research is a component of NIJ’s Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative, a project of RAND in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum, RTI International, and the University of Denver. This article is based on the report Court Appearances in Criminal Proceedings Through Telepresence: Identifying Research and Practice Needs to Preserve Fairness While Leveraging New Technology by C. Gourdet, A. Witwer, L. Langton, D. Banks, M. Planty, D. Woods, and B. Jackson.