Clay County is seeking bids to install a new video arraignment system within its courtroom.
Chief Deputy Rick Lisi said the system would cut down on travel costs and reduce safety risks in transporting inmates.
“The goal would be to have an officer with a mobile data terminal or laptop… go to the facility, bring the inmate out of that jail cell, and have them get on the computer,” Lisi said. “Then they’d be able to get their legal issues addressed, thus saving the transport, dealing with the safety issues, yet addressing this inmate’s rights of access to the court system.”
Lisi said the county currently has to transport many of its inmates from other counties, many times for rescheduling court dates or other brief hearings.
“We, first, do not house females, [and] second, many of our inmates are housed in other facilities due to the very small size and very antiquated aspects of our jail,” Lisi said. “This puts a great burden on the staff of the Sheriff’s Office on court days, criminal court days, and things like that to go to the various counties that we have to go to.”
Lisi said the video arraignment system would need to differ from other counties as deputies may still need to travel to facilities outside Clay County.
“In the case where the facility couldn’t assist because one system can’t talk with the other or that kind of thing,” Lisi said, “the only thing we would have to do now is, instead of sending a transport van and several deputies, we would send a deputy with our hardware, if you will, that could sit there at that jail and facilitate the arraignment.”
Clay County has worked towards constructing a new jail facility for the last year-plus. Lisi said once that jail is constructed, the Sheriff’s Office would simply apply the arraignment system to the new facility.
“It would make no sense at all to take 15, 20 inmates, load them up, shackle them up, get them moved from a secure facility down to the courthouse,” Lisi said, “when we can simply sit them in front of a computer screen and have them arraigned right from the jail. Again, [it’s] a cost savings, safety concerns are minimized, and so forth.”
The video arraignment system will be paid for via grant funding provided by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.
Sealed bids are being accepted through Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 4 p.m. with the county hoping to have the system installed by November. Officials in DeKalb County began using a similar video arraignment system earlier this year.