Resolution on the Use of Virtual Hearings and Reporting

Summary

This resolution supports the appropriate use of technology to facilitate remote court hearings and the reporting of people on supervision. During the COVID-19 crisis, many jurisdictions either expanded their existing policies and practices around virtual hearings and reporting or initiated new efforts. Given the tendency of institutions to revert to old ways, this resolution calls on jurisdictions to identify contexts in which virtual hearings and reporting have proven to be superior and ensure this remains part of their justice system even after COVID-19.

Resolution on the Use of Virtual Hearings and Reporting

WHEREAS, some defendants are denied bail based on a concern that they will fail to appear for court hearings and others are revoked from bail when they actually miss a hearing;

 

WHEREAS, missing a meeting with a probation or parole officer is considered a technical violation of supervision and thousands of individuals are revoked from supervision for such violations;

 

WHEREAS, many failures to appear in court relate to factors such as an inability to get time off of work, lack of transportation, and child care;

WHEREAS, data from New Jersey and Michigan indicates that failure to appear rates for virtual hearings initiated during the pandemic have been far lower than they were for in-person hearings;

WHEREAS, some drug court judges and supervision officers have found that video check-ins are actually superior because the individual is more forthcoming about their challenges and family members are present, thereby providing context for the interaction and the types of interventions and resources that would be most helpful;

WHEREAS, in-person hearings and check-ins have drawbacks in addition to potential exposure to infectious diseases, including transportation barriers and costs, the costs associated with operating physical premises, and waiting time that often occurs in rooms with individuals who span a wide range of risk levels and may have had prior negative interactions;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that jurisdictions should carefully review outcomes and costs associated with virtual hearings and check-ins that were initiated in response to the COVID-19 crisis and compare those with the prior operations before immediately reverting entirely to in-person proceedings and appointments;

 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, careful attention should be given to the types of defendants and people on probation and parole for whom virtual hearings and appointments are most effective, taking into account their offense and risk profile, demographic characteristics, and other factors. Jurisdictions should also ensure access to counsel is provided at virtual hearings, including the ability for the defendant to consult privately and confidentially with counsel when desired.