Within three years, having one's day in court in West Virginia may be as easy as picking up the telephone. It's part of West Virginia 2001, a joint project developed by Bell Atlantic and the state government to link various agencies in a high speed communications network. And even better, the first application of the system promises an immediate savings of tax dollars.
Beginning in April, prisoners in Cabell and Kanawha counties will be able to make court appearances by video link for non-trial events such as pleas, depositions and pre-trial hearings. Even though installing the system will cost $300,000, it's expected to save money by sparing the state the cost of transporting inmates back and forth to county courthouses. With fewer inmates leaving institutions, the new system is expected to enhance public safety as well.
The heart of the system is a new method to take voice, video and data and digitalize it, so that all three can be carried on on a single phone line. And while Bell Atlantic is investing $20 million statewide to help state agencies communicate more efficiently, there are commercial possibilities as well.