Prisoners, judges will link up via video

As
part of an e-government initiative, the Portfolio of Internal and External
Affairs is making plans to use video conferencing for remand prisoners.

Portfolio
Chief Officer Franz Manderson discussed the video conferencing plans at the
annual Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals conference on 10
June. He said the Portfolio wants to make use of new technologies in its effort
to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

“There
are between 30 and 40 prisoners on remand in Northward [Prison],” he said,
explaining that under the current system, those prisoners have to go back to
court every seven days.

Mr.
Manderson said taking the prisoners back to court is a very labour intensive
daily operation, requiring three to six prison officers for a full day.  Every remand prisoner has to be discharged
from prison, which entails being searched, having reports updated and changing
into street clothes. The prisoner must them be transported to court in George
Town under the guard of three to six prison officers, depending on the
prisoner’s category. Depending on the risk, the transport might also involve
armed guards.

The
prisoners also have to be guarded during their court appearance and then
returned to prison, which entails another search, more report updating and a
change into prison clothing.

Under
the proposed system, the prisoners would be taken from their cell, changed into
street clothes, and then escorted to a secure video conferencing room at an
appointed time. The magistrate would be able to see and hear the prisoner in
the courtroom, which would be linked to the prison.

“With
video conferencing, we can deal with the remand without ever leaving prison,”
Mr. Manderson said. “The savings in manpower, vehicles for the prison and
police is substantial.”

The
new system would also minimize risk to the community, he pointed out.

“Everyone
supports the idea, although we did have one strong objection – from the
prisoners themselves – they like to ride to town,” Mr. Manderson said, adding
that the prisoners’ objection was quickly dismissed.

George
Town MLA Ellio Solomon, who heads up the e-government initiative, said he
believes the new system can be in place within a couple of months. 

“We’ve
had a significant amount of discussions on this and we’re getting an assessment
done on costs,” he said, adding that everyone affected, including the
judiciary, supports the project. “All of us looking at this believe it will
reduce costs and mitigate risk to the community. We just want to make sure it
will bring about the results which we think it will bring about.”

Mr.
Solomon said there would have to be a specific room identified at the prison
and a specific room at the court for the video conferencing, which is another
reason for the ongoing “high-level narrative” on the concept.

In
addition to the video conferencing for remand prisoners, Mr. Solomon said there
were also plans to implement a broader e-government strategy over the next six
months.

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