Monday, January 14, 2013

How public is our cellphone use?

The whole point of cellular telephones being so readily accessible  is that we’re supposed to be capable of using them from anywhere at a moment’s notice.

So a part of me wonders how the whole concept of restricting the cellphone access at the buildings that serve as courthouses in Cook County is going to work.

FOR THE PAST month, there have been big signs at the entrances to those courthouses – telling us of all the types of items that people will no longer be able to bring inside the buildings with them.

Those include portable telephones. And the signs have told us that the restrictions will take effect as of Monday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this weekend that there will be some leeway used during the next few weeks – a grace-period during which people will be allowed to keep their phones on them provided they keep them turned off.

Which ought to be the common-sense approach to handling this particular issue.

EXCEPT THAT THERE are always those who will figure some people can be pushed around at will. Including many of the people who are among those who have business at the courthouses.

For many of them are criminals – in that they have committed some act worthy of a criminal charge that they may well plead guilty toward in the near future.

Yet too much of this is being done by people who seem to think their lives are lacking unless there’s someone whom they can abuse.

If it means they think they can pick on people by taking away their telephones, it just strikes me as an act of bullying by our county court system.

ALTHOUGH I DON’T doubt there is some semblance of a problem that court officials are trying to take care of.

For the stated reason for the tougher regulations is that some people are persisting in using the camera functions on their cellphones in order to take pictures during court hearings.

In some cases, these pictures are being posted as ways of publicly identifying those who have the temerity to testify in court against people who have street gang connections.

In others, they are being put on the Internet as ways of trying to embarrass judges for their professional conduct. Be honest, any video clip can be edited into something that can make someone else stupid!

SO YES, COURT officials may have a legitimate beef with the way people are using their cellphones.

But I’m all for allowing the sheriff’s deputies stationed inside each court room to rule over their domain with an iron fist on this issue. Let them confiscate the phones of people who can’t use them properly.

Let those people who get caught have to face the prospect of a serious criminal charge! It would be totally appropriate.

The hassle, however, that will be caused by banning them from the buildings outright is just ridiculous – particularly since the logical expectation of not permitting people to bring their phones into the building is that there will be some place where people can store them.

AND I’M VERY sure that there’s no way the sheriff’s police (who patrol all these buildings) want to be responsible in any way for someone else’s portable phone.

I do know that other court systems restrict the public from bringing phones in to the building – in Will County court in Joliet, only people who purchase a special license (a couple of hundred bucks for the year) from the county can have their phones.

Which means attorneys who work there can walk around with their phones, while everyone else gives them the “evil eye” of resentment. Is that really what we want at the Criminal Courts building – giving those defendants yet another reason to think they’re being “abused” in life.

The cellphone restrictions just strike me as being petty and vindictive – and I’m sure there will be many outbursts in coming weeks at the courthouses both in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs.


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