I’m at C-Scape this week which is an analyst focused event that is run at the same time as Cisco (News - Alert) Live, their annual customer show in the US. One of the really interesting sessions at events like this is the customer panels. This is when you get to hear how the technology the vendor is promoting is actually used and you can run into some really interesting stories.
On the first customer panel, one of the panelists was Chief Chris Wagner who is the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. He spoke about how video conferencing was being used to change the bail process in New Jersey.
I thought it was an interesting story. Let me share.
The Bail Problem
New Jersey is like most states in that the richer you are the less impact getting arrested has. Rich people can put up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bail and spend their time at home enjoying the riches they have acquired until and unless they are convicted. However, poor folks can’t afford bail, so they end up in jail, lose their jobs, lose their health insurance and lose their homes regardless of whether they are later found to be innocent or guilty because they can’t work out of jail. This seemed, and it certainly sounds, very unfair.
New Jersey’s legislators changed the State Constitution, affecting who is jailed, regardless of how rich they are. They are only jailed if they are either a threat to society or a flight risk. What they will be doing (currently this is in limited trial) is taking the fingerprints of the suspect and running them through an analytics process which looks at their history of crimes. This outputs a score, if the score is over six they go to jail and wait for a judge; if it is under six, they are let go with some form of monitoring depending on their flight risk.
For those that go to jail they have to see a Judge to get through the process, but Judges don’t work nights, weekends or holidays.
To get around this they implemented a secure video conferencing system from Cisco where the Judge (working from home), defendant, arresting officer, prosecutor and defense attorney can meet virtually and ague the case. From this, not the amount of money the defendant has, they can then have a ruling on whether the defendant can go home with monitoring or must be locked up.
The near instant reduction in Jail overcrowding is estimated to be 30 percent and likely will be far higher in practice. In addition, these video facilities can be used by teachers, psychiatrists and other people who work with prisoners to help them reform without having to drive to the jail. They can also be used for visits with family while in Jail or to visit the Parole officer once they are released (the ex-convict just has to go to their local police station and video conference in to the officer). A lot of folks can’t afford cars, and having to drive in to report in or to visit family in Jail was a huge financial burden on them that this solution addresses.
Wrapping Up: A Great Way to Use Technology
It is a brilliant way to use technology to fix a system that is unusually harsh on those that are already disadvantaged. For a lot of people, just being accused of something can cause them to lose their job, spouse, health benefits and home with no real recourse in what has to be one of the most unfair processes in the developed world. Fixing this not only saves the State money, tons of it, but it rights a major wrong.
With all of the animosity between police and certain minorities, having a group of Police Chiefs stand up and go out of their way to help the very demographic that seems to hate them is incredibly heartwarming, but it is also the right thing to do and, given current events, very timely. You know if we had more firms like Cisco and people like Chris Wagner this world would be a far better place. Just saying.