Why Google Hangouts Could Lead to More Justice For All

I used to work the cops and court beat of a medium-sized newspaper. It was all glamour, baby. One time, upon visiting the circuit court jail, an incarcerated person threw their own feces at the glass wall that divided us. It was horrific, but not nearly as upsetting as the meth-lab dad of four who blew up his kitchen (and his face) and then forgot to go back inside to rescue his kids from his burning house. The kids were saved by the local firemen, but the arresting officer had difficulty containing the rest of the family members who appeared in court. 


I worked odd hours when I first started; mostly nights and weekends. Friday and Saturday were particularly busy for offenders; especially for alcohol-related, domestic battery and misdemeanors. It was also incrementally busier because our judicial system was on a circuit, thus district courts that were closed for the weekend relied on our circuit court house for their initial appearance or arraignment. People picked up for various crimes around the region were transported by police escort to our local courthouse for arraignment because their own small-town local courthouse was closed. After the short trip, they were escorted back to their original jurisdiction, again with adequate police escort. And I drove my company car back to the newspaper to write up my nightly report. 

So imagine now that this process could be carried out via Skype or Google Hangout. That's exactly what is supposed to be happening in Mumbai, according to an article that first appeared in Press Trust of India. Late last year, mainstream press in the UK reported that Skype and Facetime may start to play a cost-cutting role in their legal proceedings as well. Now there are hints that this may become a more common legal occurrence, as introduced in a recent article that was published by the New York Law Journal.

Thanks to televised panels of legal gawkers across the networks, consumers and professionals alike are growing more comfortable with the idea that stories are better told in a video diary style than piles of manilla folders or printed word. (See images from CNN and Fox News that showcase video teleconferencing as a mainstream media tactic). We are used to this format, so why not take advantage of the technology and save some tax payers dollars from paying for the transportation and lodging of all our weekend circuit court offenders? 

What's more is the potential to really affect global policy and policing issues that are to blame for injustice when it comes to swift action in identifying, arresting and arraigning possible offenders. And moreso, protecting victims that need the protection of time and space that Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts can afford. My visits to the courthouse never really put me in danger, but the stories I've read about other reporters or worse, victims getting shamed, threatened and not getting even the slightest chance of justice makes me think that social teleconference may be a solution to build upon. Follow Nicholas Kristof, a prolific New York Times writer and one of my favorite crusaders for peace on the planet, for a little more understanding into the culture of rape we are dealing with on a global basis. (Be sure to check out his bio, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+).  I challenge you to think about how using social forms of communication, like Skype and Hangouts and others, would help victims tell their stories and make court procedures more accessible for the masses and affect change at the ground level, where it so desperately needs to happen. It's not always about just telling a story, but there is always a story to tell. 


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