MALONE — Increased use of video conferencing to reduce inmate court-appearance costs is among the goals Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill has in 2013.
The Sheriff’s Department takes inmates out of the jail for court, medical and dental appointments and for mental-health admissions and evaluations.
But security concerns about moving inmates from a secure setting to one that’s non-secured, the cost of travel and staff time led to implementation of video conferencing, where routine appearances before a judge take place remotely instead of having the inmate appear in person.
In his annual report to the County Legislature, Mulverhill said that in 2012 the staff made more than 1,400 trips and covered more than 60,000 miles, with an average of five trips per day, compared to 1,300 trips across 53,000 miles in 2011.
Most trips in 2012 were made to the courthouse (452), Alice Hyde Medical Center (187), other county jails (138), Malone Town Court (129) and Saranac Lake (109).
In 2011, 446 trips were made to County Court, 182 to Alice Hyde, 136 to other jails, 152 to Malone Town Court and 50 to Saranac Lake.
The sheriff hopes to reduce the number of outings in the future through the video-conferencing program.
Mulverhill said the Unified Court System has used the system, “and we’ve opened it up to the Public Defender and Conflict Resolution Office, and Probation is starting to use it.
“Eventually, we’d like to have it tied into Family Court,” the sheriff said, but criteria has to be worked out with the Unified Court administration before that can start.
He said that if usage grows and there is a need, a second video unit could be installed.
WOMEN SENT AWAY
Mulverhill’s annual report states that in 2012, 868 inmates (672 men and 196 women) were housed at the jail compared to 916 people (720 men and 196 women) in 2011.
Resignations, off-duty and on-duty injuries created a staffing shortage, but the sheriff said that using overtime to cover the hours was too expensive, so 126 female inmates were boarded out to other counties at a cost of $85 a day until September.