View Full Version : Article: Louisiana using video to hold pardon, parole hearings


1nonlyTeRe
10-17-2004, 08:47 PM
Louisiana using video to hold pardon, parole hearings


The Associated Press


Holding pardon and parole hearings with video equipment, rather than transporting prisoners and holding meetings in person, makes the process safer and saves the state money, the state's prison chief said.

Department of Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder agreed to buy the $7,500 sets of video equipment for the Pardon Board, the Parole Board and 13 corrections facilities this year.

"Anything I can do to reduce the time that an inmate spends outside our perimeter means we reduce the risk of injury to citizens of our state," Stalder said.

The equipment has not changed the structure of the hearings, but some inmate advocates said something intangible is lost with the videoconferencing.

"It's become too desensitized," former Angola prisoner Norris Henderson said after watching the board deny his friend Albert Patterson's request last week. "If he was really there, you could better gauge his reaction."

Pardon Board Chairman Ronnie Cox said the equipment does not restrict what board members see and hear during inmates' hearings.

"It's unbelievable how clear the sound is and how clear the picture is," Cox said. "If their voice quivers, we hear that quiver in the voice. If there's a tear in their eye, you can see the tear."

Cox used similar equipment in Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes to conduct routine arraignments without having to remove inmates from jail.

Cox, a retired district judge from Lafayette, said Pardon Board members, relatives of inmates and their victims will no longer have to travel up to four hours to prisons at all corners of the state. That saves money on board members' travel expenses and removes the security hassle of checking attendees into prisons, he said.

Before 1996, the Pardon Board didn't even hear from inmates petitioning them. They accepted written applications from prisoners and allowed only supporters and opponents to speak at hearings.

Cox said there's just as much dialogue with inmates through videoconferencing as there would be if they were petitioning in person.

"That's the point -- not that they're right there physically in front of you," Cox said. "That their questions get answered is what's important to me."

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Information from The Times-Picayune, www.nola.com (http://www.nola.com/)



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