Outdated technology in Hamilton County Criminal Court means jurors must use laptops to watch DVDs in the jury room and a TV must be rolled into the courtroom on a cart whenever a DVD is needed for a case, two judges say.
In the middle of a Thursday tour of the county’s courts building, four Hamilton County commissioners held an impromptu committee meeting to discuss courtroom equipment with Criminal Court Judges Rebecca Stern and Don Poole.
Hamilton County commissioners said they want to meet with the Criminal Court judges to determine just what sort of updated equipment they need for their courtrooms and jury rooms.
“We’ve been operating with a lot of worn-out equipment and furniture,” Judge Stern told the commissioners. “We’ve been trying to be frugal and get by.”
The judges informed commissioners that court officials must use a rolling cart to watch DVDs in the courtrooms, and courtroom staff must tape down the wires. Judge Stern suggested installing a drop-down screen, which the county’s Circuit Court uses.
Judge Poole told the commissioners there also is a need for new audio and video equipment in the jury rooms. The jury rooms now have only VCRs.
“We’ve got to put a makeshift thing back there with a computer on a box,” he said.
Commissioners agreed that there is a need for new equipment and furniture.
“What we need to do is look at everything you’ve got and everything you need,” Commissioner Curtis Adams told the judges.
Commission Chairman Jim Coppinger asked if the judges could prioritize their needs in a list.
Shawn Johnson, County Mayor Claude Ramsey’s criminal justice public safety coordinator, said Mr. Ramsey has a list showing the judges’ needs. He said he has obtained some estimates for how much upgrades would cost, and that Mr. Ramsey would be looking into it after he returns from his trip to Germany.
Mr. Ramsey was part of a group led by Gov. Phil Bredesen who went to Germany this week to meet with Volkswagen officials and to drum up suppliers for the VW plant soon to be built at the Enterprise South industrial park.
After finishing the courthouse tour, Mr. Coppinger and Commissioner Larry Henry also toured Hamilton County Jail later in the morning.
There, the commissioners saw the jail’s new electronic surveillance system and the board where an attendant has control over which jail doors open and the operation of the elevators.
The commissioners also got a look at the booth where a judicial commissioner, often called a magistrate, sits while on duty, and met Richard Shockley, who is serving as the temporary jail supervisor.
The County Commission has considered changing the working hours for the magistrates, who now set bonds and sign warrants on nights and weekends.
Mr. Shockley said he is going through the process of becoming the permanent director of corrections.
The previous jail supervisor, Jim Hart, left the job in December.