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Video Pretrial Interviews in Rural Jails

NCJ Number
American Jails Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: May/June 1999 Pages: 28-34
Lance P. Forsythe
Date Published
7 pages
Video pretrial interviews represent a cost-effective way of extending services to large numbers of the poorest segment of the population, the rural poor, since rural areas often do not have pretrial services because of the distances involved, the small numbers of arrests, and budgetary constraints.
The video pretrial interview is a video teleconference with a defendant while in custody before his or her first appearance in court. The purpose of the interview is to obtain, at a minimum, self-reported data on residence, employment, prior substance abuse, pending charges, and criminal history. Once verified, this information becomes the basis for a recommendation to the presiding judge regarding pretrial release or detention. Video teleconference through the centralization of resources provides equipment and personnel that might not otherwise be available to rural jails. Moreover, video pretrial interviews are less disruptive to jail operations because the interviewer is on call and available to the jail by telephone and because they reduce the number of jail visitors. In addition, the presence of video equipment in rural jails may prompt local courts to acquire their own equipment and participate in video arraignments and bond hearings. The key to bringing video technology in everyday use within jails and courtrooms in rural areas is through the creation of partnerships within the criminal justice system. Elements of an operating partnership are identified, including cost considerations, and specific procedures for conducting video pretrial interviews are described. Potential pitfalls in the use of video technology are noted. 2 references and 1 table