The Public Law Library of King County is now offering free video conferencing between inmates housed in a Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) facility and their friends or family members (users).
In 2013, King County Superior Court approved a settlement in Judd v. AT&T (No. 00-2-17565-SEA). The case alleged that defendants failed to provide proper disclosures for collect telephone calls from Washington prisons. After claims submitted by class members, attorneys' fees, case contribution awards and expenses, there was a residual fund of more than $20 million available for cy pres distributions. Of this, $11,000 were awarded to the Law Library for the creation of a video conferencing system that allows friends and family members to connect with inmates at selected DOC facilities.
The Law Library used a portion of the funds to obtain equipment to facilitate video conferencing. The remainder of the funds will be used to pay the access fee charged by the third-party vendor if the user comes to the Law Library, either in Seattle or Kent, to visit with the inmate.
This service is restricted to those facilities that have video conferencing equipment available. Typically a user must pay $12.95 for a 30-minute video visit. The user must be on the DOC's approved list of visitors. The user will make an appointment through the third party with DOC and then contact the Law Library to make a reservation to use our video conferencing system. At the end of the visit, the user will check out at the reference desk and receive a payment of $12.95 as provided by the cy pres fund. The system may be accessed in either of the Law Library's locations.
Each library is equipped with a large, flat-screen television, with a web camera and audio, and is connected to a personal computer for access to the Internet. The television is located in one of the conference rooms or training rooms, which allow privacy for friends and family members.
In her "2014 State of the Judiciary Report," Chief Justice Barbara Madsen reminds us that more than 75 percent of low-income households face a profound civil legal problem each year, according to the "2003 Civil Legal Needs Study" prepared by the Supreme Court's Task Force on Equal Justice Funding - and this was before the economic downturn. The same study states that up to 54 percent of low-income households face four or more civil legal problems each year.1
By offering the video visits, the Law Library hopes to introduce more members of the community to the services of the Law Library and of the legal services community. Please refer qualified users to the Law Library or our website, http://kcll.org/content/doc-video-visits-seattle-law-library, for more information.
1 http://www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/content/taskforce/civillegalneeds.pdf at 23.
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