13 April 2017
In the beginning of 2016, defendants in the Maricopa County Justice Courts system had to wait an average of 6.9 days from the time of their initial court appearance (IA) to the time of their arraignment, when they are formally charged. In March of 2017, it was less than 3 days. So how did Justice Courts cut wait times by more than half?
It started with a realization, according to Presiding Justice of the Peace C. Steven McMurry. “We woke up to the fact that we were keeping people in jail too long. We never intended to do that. We were putting out warrants because they didn’t pay their fines but the part we weren’t paying attention to—the part we weren’t being responsible for—was how long it took between the time they were arrested and the time we actually saw them.”
The answer: the Video Appearance Center (VAC). The system, launched on June 17, 2016, allowed people in custody to be taken to one central location where a judge could appear, via video conference, to hear their cases. This led to a vast reduction in the need for prisoner transport since inmates could see a judge on video rather than needing to go to courthouses as far out as Gilbert or Gila Bend.
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