Video kiosks could soon be installed in jails across the state, giving inmates remote access to attorney consultations. House Bill 374, "IDS Efficiency Act" would cut down on attorneys' travel time and save taxpayer money, according to one of the bill's sponsors. ("IDS" stands for the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services, a public organization tasked with supplying legal representation for defendants who cannot afford a private attorney.)
Court-appointed defense attorneys, many of whom have contracts in multiple counties, sometimes gripe that travel requirements cut into face-time in jail. Because IDS considers travel on-the-clock work, video kiosks would allow IDS to spread out funds more efficiently, said Rep. Robert Reives, a criminal attorney who represents parts of Chatham and Lee counties, and one of the bill's sponsors.
"For an attorney in Raleigh representing a client in Sanford, you could turn a three-hour visit into a one-hour visit, and cut the bill by two-thirds," said Reives, a Democrat.
The bill is scheduled to go before a House judiciary committee this afternoon.
The bill would not mandate that jails install video kiosks, but would give them funds to help them do so. It's unclear whether individual counties would need to bear any of the installation costs.
Reives said that video kiosks could also lead to higher quality consultations. "Jails have restrictions for access," said Reives. "Sometimes, during lunch, you've got four attorneys visiting clients in the same small room."
Many of the newer jails across the country have already been using video kiosks, to good effect, said Reives. He says thep kiosks have encrypted features, ensuring for privacy.