Mahoning County Sheriff says adapting to virtual court hearings has its benefits

Local News

The sheriff thinks the technology could remain in place even after the pandemic

(WKBN) – Municipal courts in Youngstown have been using video conferencing for years to avoid the time and labor of moving prisoners back and forth from the jail.

However, equipment like this is now being used in the common pleas and area courts to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus.

“Essentially, since the start of the lock down… it has caused us to basically adapt and create less exposure with the inmates and people coming to court,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.

The sheriff’s office is spending more than $40,000 in state and federal grants to outfit courts with equipment and software, allowing two-way conferencing.

Among other things, it reduces the need to transport inmates back and forth from state prisons and hearings.

“We’re able to do a direct video conference with the penitentiary itself. The inmate never has to leave the penitentiary,” Greene said.

The sheriff said it addition to reducing exposure to the virus, there’s less of a chance of problems transporting prisoners.

“There’s risk with the public. There’s obviously risk of escape or assault and it just makes everything just much more secure,” Greene said.

A similar system was already used for a virtual adoption ceremony in the county probate court a few weeks ago. The sheriff thinks the technology could remain in place even after the pandemic.

“Even once things start loosening up, I think there’s a lot of the court hearings that the judges are very pleased with and how they’re going,” Green said.

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