News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 11, 2011

Public defenders, clients talk via video

INDIANAPOLIS — The State Public Defender is implementing a videoconferencing system that will allow attorneys to electronically meet with incarcerated clients at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle.

“This will help us keep communication and travel costs down while still allowing our attorneys to meet with their clients,” Indiana Public Defender Susan Carpenter said.

The videoconferencing equipment resembles a pay phone and is designed specifically for correctional use. It features a video screen and camera (similar to a web cam) that transmits audio and video in real time.

An offender is connected automatically with an attorney by simply lifting the handset.

The equipment was purchased by the State Public Defender for $4,630.

Before the videoconferencing system was implemented, attorneys communicated with their clients via mail or in-person meetings. Attorneys would drive from Indianapolis to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility about 10 times per month, and each trip averaged about $250.

Bill Polansky, chief deputy of the State Public Defender, coordinated the project. “Substituting videoconferencing for some of the in-person visits will reduce travel time and expense,” he said. “Videoconferencing will also improve our service to clients by increasing the amount of time we can spend talking with them.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Bruce Lemmon, who served as Superintendent at Wabash Valley when the pilot project was approved said, “The real beneficiaries are the taxpayers of the state who, because of the more efficient use of time by the State Public Defender’s office and the cooperation of the Department of Correction, are getting more from their tax dollars.

Because of this project, the State Public Defender’s attorneys are able to use their time assisting clients rather than driving to and from the facility.”

The Public Defender of Indiana is a state-funded agency that provides representation to indigent prison inmates in challenges to convictions and sentences. The Public Defender is appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court. The office works to assure the fundamental fairness of the criminal justice system. For more information about the State Public Defender’s Office, visit www.in.gov/judiciary/ defender.

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