Concern From Domestic Violence Advocates Causes Pushback on Courtroom Cell Phone Ban

The cell phone ban in Cook County courthouses, scheduled to go into effect next week, is meant to protect witnesses and others in court—but could it put victims of domestic violence at risk?

cell phone ban

 

The Cook County courthouse cellphone ban, announced last month, is scheduled to go into effect on Monday. There are compelling reasons behind it, but potential problems that the Sun-Times predicted when it was conceived. Back in 2007, the Reader ran a memorable piece about what people do with contraband (like cell phones) when visiting the jail:

About ten minutes later, I arrived at the guard station, where a stout corrections officer with an unfriendly face stopped me. She indicated my coffee mug and cell phone and declared it “contraband.” Back in Michigan there were rows of lockers for visitors to the jail, but the officer simply told me, “Take it back to your car.”

I said I came by public transportation. What did people do in this situation?

“A lot of people will hide their stuff across the street,” she said.

I took a quick survey of the area. Across Sacramento was a row of houses, at least one of which was abandoned. On 26th, there was a Popeyes, a Greek restaurant, and a car wash. “Be sure it’s not on corrections property,” she said firmly.

Another officer, skinny with thick glasses, stepped out of the guard station. “Sometimes the restaurant down the street will hold your bag,” she said. “But they’ll charge you.”

[snip]

I got my mug and phone and headed back to the courthouse, where I talked with yet another guard. “I’m sorry we don’t have any lockers here. But,” she added cheerfully, “the man out there with the sandwich truck will hold on to your stuff for a dollar.” In the street was an ordinary roach coach.

It’s an inconvenience for most, but for victims of domestic violence, it’s a potential danger, since phones are a lifeline for potential victims. And questioning of the effects of the ban has Judge Timothy Evans considering alternative solutions, CBS 2 reports (full disclosure: my wife is a DV lawyer, and though she she shares the concerns, she’s not involved with the letter sent to Evans that’s mentioned in the report).

 

Photograph: ewidge (CC by 2.0)

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