Thursday, April 30, 2009

CVM Helps Inmates and Public Defenders Connect

In the movies, it's usually pretty easy for defense attorneys to visit their clients in jail, and they always have something hugely critical to tell them. In reality, it takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the attorney, the staff at the jail, and even the in-custody client to meet. And frequently, the information the attorney needs to provide to her client is routine information about court schedules and future meetings. This is a classic case of moving people to information instead of making it easy to move information to people, with everyone (including the jail system) spending unnecessary time and money as a result.

Through an initiative launched this month, public defenders in King County (WA) will now be able to communicate via voice mail with their in-custody clients. This project is being implemented by Community Voice Mail National Office (CVM), Seattle CVM (hosted by Solid Ground), the Northwest Defenders Association (NDA) and the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD).

NDA attorneys and paralegals are assigning private CVM voice mail boxes to their in-custody clients. Attorneys and paralegals leave private messages for clients on the voice mail which the clients check regularly from the phone in the jail. They simply type in a speed dial code, their voice mail box extension and a unique password to access the messages.

The communication is one-way only – providing the attorneys with a quick, efficient way to get short messages to their clients about upcoming hearings and meetings thus saving them time and money usually expended by trips to the jail. The service is a great supplement to in-person visits with clients.

While in-custody clients are prevented from using their CVM box for any purpose other than to receive messages from their attorney (via several security measures in place to ensure the system is used solely for its intended purpose), those who lack a reliable phone with private messaging can get access to a fully functioning CVM number upon their release from jail from the NDA.

The first voice mail box was distributed on April 6, 2009 and as of April 27, 28 boxes are currently in use. CVM National and the King County DAJD have plans to make this service available to other local defender organizations once the pilot phase is completed.


CVMSummit said...

This is fantastic and I would love to hear more of how to get this started in my community!!!!!!

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Thanks CVMSummit. As we learn more, we'll get more information out about this program. If successful, it should be something that can be replicated in at least the 45 CVM cities.