New court system technology saves money for taxpayers

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A pilot project involving the court system is saving taxpayers money and keeping communities safer. It allows state hospital patients accused of a crime to appear before a judge via video.

Joseph Navas appeared before Judge Richard Perkins on Tuesday for a Mililani incident three years ago. He’s charged with numerous count of burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and sex assault.

It’s one of the first times a patient from the Hawaii State Hospital is able to attend a hearing without leaving the facility in Kaneohe.

“We look at it more as more efficient, more effective, more community safety, better patient safety and less disruption to treatment,” State Adult Mental Health Division Mark Fridovich said.

Although the neighbor islands have allowed patients to appear in court via video teleconference, it’s never been done on Oahu until now.

In 2009, video teleconferencing on the Big Island saved $472,000 of taxpayers money. The state doesn’t know how much money could be saved on Oahu, but says it won’t be as much as the neighbor islands since there’s not as much travel.

“And there’s increased public safety and increased safety for the individual themselves because they don’t have to be transported,” Fridovich said.

Experts say there are benefits to the patients as well, since they’re not taken away from the program the whole day.

Officials say no one from the Hawaii State Hospital has ever escaped from sheriffs while being transported to court, but they don’t want to take any chances and hope to make this project permanent.

The video teleconferencing is not mandatory. Patients can refuse and show up to court in person instead.

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