Every day Kern County transfers dozens of inmates back and forth between the jail and the courthouse. This costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, what if there was a way to cut down on that cost by streaming video from the jail for some hearings?
Kern County tried video arraignments in the 1990's, but couldn't make it cost effective. Now, a push for new legislation may change that.
Buses transport inmates every day to and from Lerdo Jail and the courthouse.
"We probably make six or seven trips a day," said Chief Deputy Francis Moore of the Kern County Sheriff's Department.
The Sheriff's Department estimates these trips costs between $430,000 to $530,000 a year. The Department said the trip also poses a safety hazard.
"If I could keep a guy in the jail and have him do his arraignment in the jail I have just taken away his opportunity to bring in contraband, for him to be staff assaulted, for him to assault someone in the audience," said Moore.
To cut cost and risk, county officials may bring back video court hearings. With this technology, some court appearances could be done at the jail through a television screen at the courthouse.
Kern County tried this in the 1990's, but had trouble because California law said defendants have a right to face a judge in person.
"When it got down to it, the inmates liked that little field trip going downtown, getting out of the jail, seeing their family in the audience," said Moore.
This wasn't cost effective. Now, Kern County suggests changing the law to bring video hearings back.
"We have to work with the legislature though to see if there is a way to mandate the inmates go with that program," said Moore.
The Kern County Public Defender's Office is open to the idea for certain hearings like arraignments.
"This is a situation where the Sheriff's interests and the taxpayers' interests really come together," said Konrad Moore, Kern County Public Defender's Office.
That's because at arraignments, little is done. Defendants are read charges and a court date is set. Still, there is a long way to go before video arraignments become reality.
"It is a possibility we are looking at it, but there are a lot of hurdles we have to overcome to try to come up with solutions to problems we know we've had in the past," said Moore.