Video conferencing to be used for Juvenile and Felony Adult Drug Court

Published 6:20 pm Friday, April 24, 2020

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The Troup County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Troup County Juvenile and Felony Adult Drug Court to provide video conferencing for hearings.

“Cases have been backing up since the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place came about,” TCSO Sheriff James Woodruff said. “If people’s children are in DFACS custody or foster care, there have to be hearings from time to time to see new statuses on the cases. They see where the cases are at, how the kids are doing, how the parents are doing or are the parents following a plan well.”

The types of cases that Judge Key is now able to preside over while using this system are dependency cases where a parent of a child in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services is incarcerated, guardianship matters, or others in which the incarcerated adult has a right to be present.

“Historically, as much for the child’s benefit, the family’s benefit as well as the parents benefit, we have brought them out to our hearings. Obviously, that’s a difficult thing to do,” Key said. “Now, we are actually not holding people here and are doing it through video conferencing.”

Also, in the event an adult who is a participant in Felony Adult Drug Court is sanctioned by Judge Key, this allows him to meet with that person directly from the jail.

“Having the ability to use videoconferencing allows for the opportunity to continue to serve the child and the community and do so in a safe manner without the sheriff’s office having to make arrangements for the inmate to be transported to court,” Key said.

So far, Key has not had any cases yet where they have had to use the video conferencing for hearings, but he said he has hearings scheduled next week that they will implement the video conferencing from TCSO.

“We’re actually doing video conferencing too with the RYDC (Regional Youth Detention Center) and not bringing them out here either,” Key said. “So, the sheriff won’t have to pick them up too and have his folks potentially exposed to the virus, because we have kids scattered all over the state.”

Key added that the video conferencing with juveniles at RYDC had worked well.

“With COVID-19, they want to have fewer people in the courthouse and fewer people gathering together, so one thing we decided to do is use the same video monitoring that we use for first appearances at the jail, which is a video monitor on the wall in a room,” Woodruff said. “The jailer gets you out of your cell, they take you into this room, and you stand in front of the monitor. It comes on, you’re looking at the judge, and he does the hearing.”

Woodruff said the video conferencing also helps with not having to transport an inmate from TCSO to the courthouse in downtown LaGrange for a short hearing.

“It really saves on time plus it helps us with not having so many people in the courtroom,” Woodruff said. “It also gets us back on track sooner. It’s a wonderful partnership that we have with the court system.”