Beneficial Technology Leap – Courtroom 21

Criminal Justice

Beneficial Technology Leap – Courtroom 21

A technology leap that I see as beneficial, based on the readings, is ‘Courtroom 21’ which was developed by The College of William and Mary. The technology in that courtroom had several capabilities including instantaneous access to LEXIS and Folio Views, Stenograph transcription in real time, two-way simultaneous audio-video transmission, video recording, consecutive translation, animated presentations, and monitor displays (Brown, 2000, p. 241). These pieces of technology have found themselves in the modern courtroom in a more improved and advanced form. Such advances can be seen in the teleconferencing and streaming capabilities of modern courtrooms that have been the centre of debate especially in the wake of COVID-19 (Marimow, 2020).

There are notable benefits in the application of the technology mentioned above. Audio and video transmission in real-time can for instance be useful in hearing witness testimonies without having physical presence of the witness. Stenograph transcriptions in real time are critical in reviewing testimonies. Translation in real time helps overcome language barrier between defendants, judges, prosecutors, and witnesses. Animated presentations and monitor displays equally help in communicating messages to the courtroom – such as calling up witnesses – or even in proper displaying of evidence – which may be critical in convincing a jury. Cumulatively also, these technologies save on time.

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These benefits of the ‘Courtroom 21’ technologies can be tied to what Bohm (2006) refers to as ‘McDonaldization’ of criminal justice. According to Bohm (2006, p.128), at the center of ‘McDonaldization’ is the quest to achieve efficiency by “streamlining of processes.” An organization simply cuts out bureaucratic approaches and remains with simple repeatable steps that increase productivity while reducing costs. In this perspective, the courtroom technologies including audio-visual, display monitors, transcription, translation, instant database access, and recording all improve on the efficiency of courtroom processes. An example is how a witness, or all parties in the proceeding to not have to be in the same room for a trial to proceed. Similarly, sharing of information between parties is made easier with instantaneous reviews such as of witness accounts. This efficiency is achieved by removing the legacy processes within the overarching bureaucratic stance of most court processes. Taking the view of Byrne and Marx (2011) in their explanation of soft-technology and hard-technology in fighting crime, Courtroom 21, which encompasses both, thus represents dramatic changes in the courtroom organization and hence performance of trials.


Bohm, R. M. (2006). “McJustice”: On the McDonaldization of criminal justice. Justice Quarterly, 23(1), 127-146.

Brown, M. (2000). Discovers Information. Criminal Justice 2000, 1.

Byrne, J., & Marx, G. (2011). Technological innovations in crime prevention and policing. A review of the research on implementation and impact. Journal of Police Studies, 20(3), 17-40.

Marimow, A., 2020. Federal Courts Shuttered By Coronavirus Can Hold Hearings By Video And Teleconference In Criminal Cases. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 November 2020].

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