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TMCNet:  Public defense adds new tech

[November 06, 2012]

Public defense adds new tech

Nov 06, 2012 (The Brunswick News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Brunswick Judicial Circuit Public Defender Kevin Gough says lawyers in his office are now able to speak with jailed clients without leaving the office.

On Monday, Gough and the Glynn County Sheriff's Office launched a close-circuit video conference link that allows lawyers to video chat with inmates at the Glynn County Detention Center.

"Our goal is to improve the speed with which we communicate with our clients," Gough said. "We've been working with the sheriff's office, and this is as close as the technology allows us to have improved communication.

"We've done some video conferencing for some hearings (in court). We will now have the ability to do that from our office." Lawyers will still visit clients at the jail for in-depth conversations, Gough said. But for issues that can be discussed quickly, the technology will help move cases faster and save time.

"Some things you can't do over video. Some attorney-client discussions have to happen in person. We're not going to be doing plea deal discussions over video," Gough said. "Some attorney-client meetings can take hours, but some can take five minutes. Sometimes it takes more time just to get in the jail just to see them than it does to discuss the case." Gough, noting the system is in its infancy, said he's sure there will be technical bugs and scheduling issues that need to be worked out. But if the project is successful, Gough hopes to expand.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to have this capability in all five of our county jails. It just happened to start in Glynn County," Gough said.

The Brunswick Judicial Circuit, in addition to Glynn, includes the counties of Camden, Wayne, Appling and Jeff Davis.

The move didn't cost the public defender's office very much money, Gough said.

"The sheriff has been able to use video conferencing equipment they already had, and they were able to set it up to interface with store-bought cameras and head sets," Gough said. "We have spent less than $500 in this process. And we'll more than make it back in time." Gough was appointed circuit public defender in August, and he said since then he's been working to make improvements.

"The goal is to get their cases up and running faster," Gough said. "There are too many people sitting in jail for too long." ___ (c)2012 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) Visit The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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