For Michigan’s state court system, video conferencing is more than just a perk of the 21st century: It is a tool to cut costs and increase public safety.
For the past two years, Michigan has expanded its use of video conferencing software in court cases, eliminating the need to transport prisoners to and from the courts. According to state officials, this strategy saves resources and ameliorates the threat of prisoner escape.
“Video conferencing is common sense technology that saves time and money,” Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano said. “At the same time, not transporting prisoners reduces risk. That’s a win-win.”
Since the initiative was launched in 2010, high-definition video technology has been installed in 83 counties across the state. Of those, 78 counties have gone a step further, installing video conferencing in every courtroom. Statewide, 417 courtrooms are high-definition-video equipped.
These numbers are expected to grow in coming years, as the benefits become increasingly apparent. The strategy has saved the state $5 million to date, according to state officials. But video conferencing does more than decrease logistical expenses: It also frees sheriff deputies to perform other critical public safety tasks and has also tends to lessen the threat of prisoner escape.
In the wake of the savings, other Michigan public offices have partnered with the program. Michigan State Police Forensic Lab as well as state mental health officials have installed software that enables them to video conference into arraignments, pretrial conferences and other mandatory hearings. The time and expense of travel is cut in every instance.
The prioritization of video technology is the result of a state Supreme Court initiative to improve efficiency and public service through innovation.
Statewide, the effort to embrace technological solutions and increase funding has been widespread. In response to increased hacking threats — Michigan faces more than 730,000 attempted cyber attacks per day — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder proposed an additional $7 million in funding for cybersecurity for fiscal year 2016.
Michigan has also been a national leader in tech legislation. Last year, state Legislature introduced bills to regulate drone usage for hunters as well as anti-hunting groups. Earlier in 2014, lawmakers pitched bills that would impose regulations on ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.