Tech Highlights

The write–ups below describe various technologies used by SRTB agencies. We gathered this information by speaking with representatives of these agencies and asking them to describe the challenges they faced, the steps they took to implement the technology, their own assessment of its effectiveness, and any other lessons learned.

Resolving Traffic Tickets Online in East Lansing, MI

While courts often reduce the charges to motorists who receive traffic tickets but have otherwise clean driving records, requiring motorists to appear in person can impose a hardship to those who would need to travel long distances or who work or attend school during the day. The East Lansing (Michigan) District Court has addressed this challenge by implementing an online ticket resolution process, allowing motorists to submit a statement online; these statements are then reviewed by a judge. This has dropped the time for resolution of these cases from 30-45 days to two days, and freed up court staff for more complex cases.

Remote Surveillance for Port Security in San Diego County, California

Concerned about a possible terrorist attack following the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole, the San Diego Harbor Police applied for and received grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant program to deploy surveillance cameras around the San Diego Bay. The cameras monitor both recreational ramps and the regulated marine terminals perimeter and access points. The cameras and analysts provide additional eyes for officers in the field, and can help guide law enforcement to an incident location, leading to faster response times, better situational awareness, round-the-clock coverage, and recorded evidence in any subsequent investigations or court cases.

Telemedicine in Jefferson County Jail, Washington

Isolation, understaffing and budget constraints can limit correctional facilities’ access to healthcare for inmates. The Jefferson County (Washington) jail has successfully implemented telemedicine to allow inmates to access healthcare via videoconference. The system was inexpensive to implement, since it relies on existing technology, and has saved money because inmates no longer have to be transported to healthcare providers for all of their healthcare needs. It also allows for more efficient triage in crises, as assessments can be made via telemedicine instead of relying on emergency room visits.

Jail Management System in Barnwell County, SC

Small and rural jails often face challenges managing data on inmates, which may be stored on paper files and difficult to retrieve. One facility, the Barnwell County Detention Facility in Barnwell, SC, turned to a jail management system (JMS) that was affordable because it piggy-backed on the local sheriff’s records management solution. The JMS has improved efficiency and reporting accuracy, and has made records easily available.

Segways in Forsyth, Georgia

Despite its small size, the City of Forsyth receives a high number of visitors. The city’s police department began patrolling the main square on Segway electric scooters, which have attracted considerable interest from both locals and visitors, giving people a natural topic of conversation with the officers who ride them. Segways have become a great tool for community engagement and increasing police presence and community gatherings.

Videoconferencing in South Dakota

Staff training in a large rural state can be resource-intensive if participants have to travel to participate. In South Dakota, the State Court Administrator’s Office has begun offering short training course via videoconference, thus reducing travel time and expenditures. The state has now found a good balance between offering longer in-person training on more intensive topics, and shorter 60- and 90-minute courses via videoconference.

The Criminal Research Information Management Evaluation System (CRIMES): A Comprehensive Records Management System for Smaller Police Agencies

While records management systems (RMSs) are an important tool for law enforcement agencies, costs can be prohibitively expensive, especially for small agencies. The Sam Houston State University has developed a shared RMS—the Criminal Research Information Management Evaluation System (CRIMES)—that is now used by 54 agencies in Texas. The system was developed on a not-for-profit basis and each participating agency benefits from low licensing fees.  CRIMES provides modules such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD), incident reporting, database searches, and applications for booking and jail management. It also supports research on criminal justice and training of law enforcement officers in using technology for analysis and decision-making.

Remote Monitoring Systems in Community Corrections in Virginia

The travel time spent conducting home, employment, or sobriety checks in rural areas means probation officers either have less contact with their clients or must have fewer clients. Blue Ridge Court Services in Virginia is addressing that problem through using a suite of remote monitoring technologies, including GPS-enabled ankle bracelets, remote mobile alcohol monitoring, in-home alcohol monitoring, and voice recognition monitoring. Using these technologies, BRCS is able to conserve resources and manage a large caseload effectively.  

Case Management System on the Tulalip Reservation, WA

Case management systems (CMSs)—software systems that help courts manage case information from filing to post-adjudication—are instrumental in enabling courts to adopt e-filing and go paperless. Using a CMS provides various law and justice personnel the ability to access and share information about all parts of a case, throughout the entire process, both remotely and simultaneously. In addition to helping manage case processing and enabling information sharing, these systems handle data privacy and access issues. They range in complexity and price.

Case Management System (CMS) in Community Corrections in Minnesota

Probation officers are a mobile workforce that needs secure access to parolee data in the field. In 2014, Cass County Probation began implementing mobile access to client data in its Court Services Tracking System using smartphones and tablets. As long as they have Internet access, probation officers can use the system as if they were sitting in their office at a desktop computer. Instead of preparing hard copies of data before going into the field, probation officers have more time to engage with their clients.

Portable breath testers in Whatcom County, Washington

Probation clients who abuse alcohol may have frequent alcohol testing as part of their probation conditions. Whatcom County Probation adopted portable breath testers (PBTs) to screen clients before they left the probation office, to prevent driving under the influence. Having the PBTs onsite allows the probation office to administer its own testing, instead of relying on law enforcement. A client who tests positive can leave the probation office when his/her BAC is below 0.02% or if someone else drives.

Mandatory E-filing at Courts in Minnesota

Traveling to a courthouse to submit and review documents can take considerable time, particularly in rural areas. E-filing enables legal service providers and the public to file legal documents electronically without traveling to the courthouse. In the Ninth Judicial District of Minnesota, e-filing—integrated with their case management system—has increased the District's geographic accessibility by those in remote areas, and helped lighten staff workloads.

Telepsychiatry for Jail Inmates in Carlton County, Minnesota

In small, rural counties, healthcare specialists are in short supply, and challenged to meet the needs of inmates who suffer from substance abuse and mental health problems. In 2014, the Carlton County jail entered into contract with a private, nonprofit organization to provide telepsychiatry services to inmates for 1.5 hours every two weeks. Since telepsychiatry was implemented, inmates have required fewer trips to the emergency room, and mental health service provision costs have been reduced.

North Carolina’s Remote Probation Monitoring through the Offender Accountability Reporting Program

Despite the number of adults on probation, cuts to state and federal probation budgets have forced departments to find creative solutions to effectively monitor their growing caseloads. North Carolina adapted an existing scale to categorize probationers by their level of risk, then developed a web-based probation monitoring tool for low-risk offenders to more efficiently use their limited resources. Officers assigned to lower-risk cases can carry caseloads roughly 60-100% larger than those supervising higher-risk probationers.

Information Sharing via SharePoint: Experience from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

This 118-member police force, which covers 88 square miles, needed a way to coordinate information sharing. It adopted Microsoft’s SharePoint system, which works in conjunction with agency-provided smart phones. Officers and detectives can now efficiently access information in one centralized place, which facilitates access to everything from forms to gang intelligence to training schedules.

Providing Court Services to Geographically Remote County Constituents: The Mohave County Experience With a Video Kiosk

Mohave County spans the Grand Canyon, making for a long drive for residents of the north rim to reach the county courthouse on the south rim. Instead of constructing an expensive new courthouse, the County installed a video kiosk in an existing DMV building. The kiosk functions as part of the existing videoconference system, meaning no training was needed, and allows north rim residents to make a court “appearance” for charges that don’t involve mandatory jail time.