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Published: 8/20/2003

Video hearings earn sheriff's thumbs up

A new video system is saving time and money by allowing judges to communicate with jail inmates through television screens in Maumee Municipal Court, officials said yesterday.

Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and Judge Gary Byers of Maumee Municipal Court praised the video technology during a news conference at the Maumee court, which began holding video hearings July 7. The Maumee court is the first in the county to use the video system. Other municipal courts could install the system later.

“The convenience, the efficiency, and the savings of tax dollars are what it's all about,” Sheriff Telb said.

Before the video system, sheriff's deputies transported inmates from the Lucas County jail or the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker, to the courthouse every time they had a court appearance.

Sheriff Telb said video hearings have reduced the number of transport trips, cutting his agency's overtime costs.

The city of Maumee spent about $16,000 to install video equipment, and the sheriff's office chipped in $6,000 to equip the county jail.

“Our part has probably paid for itself already,” Sheriff Telb said.

The court held 60 video hearings in the past five weeks. Officials said the video hearings allowed prisoners to be released from jail more quickly, saving the city more than $1,000 in jail-bed expenses.

Judge Byers said video hearings are ideal for prisoners who owe fines and court costs, but he demands that prisoners charged with serious crimes come to the courthouse.

“If someone is charged with a violent offense, I want to look them in the eye,” he said.

Video hearings should be used in at least half the court's cases involving people in jail, Judge Byers said. In 2001, the court dealt with 725 such cases. Officials predict 836 cases involving prisoners would be in the court this year.

The Oregon Municipal Court plans to start using the video technology by October, Municipal Court Judge Donald Petroff said

Oregon City Council will vote Monday on legislation authorizing about $24,000 for the video system, Judge Petroff said.

Sylvania Municipal Court may start with the system next year, Judge Byers said.

“It will be a major struggle, but we hope to get Toledo Municipal Court to use it too,” Sheriff Telb said.



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