Creek County to expand to expand video court appearances

Monday, December 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) -- Creek County has its own version of Court TV. Creek County plans to expand its successful system of having inmates make some court appearances by closed-circuit television.

Sheriff Larry Fugate said the system has been in place for about a year in the Sapulpa courthouse and Creek County jail. The county hopes to have a video camera and monitor installed ina courtroom in Bristow over the next three months, Fugate said. Bristow is 19 miles away.

Fugate said he usually has to take two deputies off the road to transport five inmates to Bristow. "With this system, we don't have to do that," he said. The existing system enhances security and helps the county save on manpower costs, the sheriff said. An expansion should result in additional savings. "The problem you have with inmates is when you take them out of the jail," Fugate said. "We're able to do this inside the jail and never leave the jail."

The system works through cameras and monitors that allow for two-way communication between judges at the courthouse and inmates at the jail. The system is used mostly for setting bail and waiving extradition, said Special Judge Richard Woolery. But Woolery said he has arraigned several inmates through the system.

County officials hope to eventually expand the system to Drumright. "Everyone seems to like it, and the inmates never get out from behind a locked door," Woolery said. A Department of Corrections grant paid for some of the improvements, Fugate said. Creek County installed the court-jail setup in addition to nine 24-hour surveillance cameras at the jail for about $11,000, he said.

Creek County fashioned its system after one in Tulsa County. The video hookup occasionally has problems, the judge said. "One of the problems is it's a one-way microphone, and when they (defendants or attorneys) speak, I have to wait kind of an awkward second or two after they finish before the mike is released," Woolery said. The acoustics in the cinderblock jail also pose problems, but Woolery said the system works.