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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

Video to link jail with court in Perrysburg

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Neither Lt. Butch Roe at the Wood County jail nor Doug Spencer at Perrysburg Municipal Court can say how much money it will save to arraign Perrysburg's prisoners by video, but they know it will save plenty of time.

Perrysburg currently makes at least two trips a day to the county jail in Bowling Green hauling prisoners back and forth for court appearances, a lengthy process at both ends.

"When we take inmates out of housing, we have to pat them down and take them to booking where Perrysburg pats them down again, puts handcuffs and leg irons on, loads them up, and takes them to Perrysburg," Lieutenant Roe said.

The process is reversed after the defendants have appeared in court and are driven back to the jail on East Gypsy Lane Road.

Court and jail officials hope by the end of next month, video equipment will be in place in both courtrooms at Perrysburg Municipal Court that will allow inmates to appear before a judge without leaving the jail. Perrysburg has invested about $61,000 in the new equipment.

Mr. Spencer said while some prisoners still will have to be driven to and from court, reducing that figure on a daily basis will reduce the risk of unruly prisoners acting out or escaping.

The city has two holding cells - one for men and another for women - where defendants are held before and after their court appearances.

The problem, Mr. Spencer said, is there's nowhere to separate inmates if court or law enforcement officials want them kept apart.

"I can't say if this is going to save money, but it's going to save time and effort surely," he said. "It's going to save a lot of security concerns for us at the court, and it's going to save the city from having to add onto this building to increase the holding cells."

A number of area courts have gone to video arraignments, including Bowling Green Municipal Court which has been conducting arraignments by video from the Wood County jail for at least 10 years.

Deputy Butch Bloomfield, who has been coordinating the video project for the sheriff's office, said when Perrysburg approached the county about installing a similar system, the county decided to extend the service to Fostoria Municipal Court and Northwood Mayor's Court as well.

The sheriff's office expects to find out in November whether it will receive a $40,000 state grant to pay for the equipment for those courts.

"We thought we should do it as countywide project," Deputy Bloomfield said. "Once we get this going, it's going to be a great deal for the department and for the courts."

Chief Deputy Eric Reynolds said the sheriff's office would like to see video arraignments in Wood County Common Pleas Court but the judges have so far resisted the idea.

"We would have liked to have had them come aboard but they did not want to join at this time," Deputy Reynolds said, adding that the system would save "a tremendous amount" of time for the two deputies whose job it is to transport prisoners to common pleas court full-time.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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