City of Conway eyes video conferencing for bond hearings, pleas

Published: Jan. 11, 2012 at 1:55 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2012 at 2:19 AM EST
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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - A technology upgrade could soon pave the way for a new way to conduct bond and plea hearings in the City of Conway.

Conway Police Chief Reggie Gosnell says his department would like to move forward with the purchase of a video conferencing system, that would allow judges to communicate with inmates housed at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center via webcam.

"Ten thousand dollars the total package is going to cost," Gosnell said. "We think we can easily recoup that in this year's fiscal budget."

The price tag isn't cheap, but Gosnell says it's a small amount compared to the thousands of dollars his department spends each year transporting inmates from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center to Conway for court.

Gosnell says the transportation system reduces security and increases the chances of an inmate escape.

"The less you handle prisoners, the better off you are," he said.

The City of North Myrtle Beach has been using a similar video conferencing system for seven months, and Judge Blake Martin says on average, saves 15 to 25 hours of work for officers per week for the large number of pleas his court handles.

"It helps the community because you have officers out there who are able to do what we want them to do, which is enforce the laws on the books," Martin commented.

Gosnell says once the system is in place, he hopes similar benefits will improve how well his department protects you in Downtown Conway.

"We think we can redirect [the savings] into more proactive patrols in neighborhoods where they can be seen -- upping our visibility," he said. "[We could] reallocate those resources that we would otherwise spend on transporting."

Gosnell says his department is working with Horry County on the project. He hopes to have video conferencing up and running in a few weeks.

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