The delivery of public services has potentially changed more in the last 16 months than it has in the previous 100 years, especially across justice systems and court operations. Through many of the challenges government agencies have faced, it’s amazing to see how collaborations between the public and private sector have driven and enabled so much positive innovation, especially through the use of technology to support digital transformation within justice.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with my colleague Kirk Arthur, Worldwide Public Sector Industry Lead for Public Safety & Justice at Microsoft, about how technology, process, and critical culture change can truly transform the justice system. Taking an end-to-end platform approach, which integrates solutions such as Video Enabled Justice, case management and data analytics, not only improves access and increases efficiency, but as part of a seamless data-driven system, opens doors to an improved experience, for both justice staff and members of the public.
Speaking with Kirk was insightful, really underscoring how solutions such as Accenture’s Video Enabled Justice (VEJ) solution, built on the Microsoft platform, are truly a future-ready service. We discussed in detail how VEJ goes well beyond video connection, helping create a less stressful and more effective experience for everyone involved in court proceedings as well as delivering significant cost and efficiency benefits. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
With e-filing evidence uploads and digital case management, the data stream is seamless, with different agencies able to add important pieces of information, creating a more complete picture of an individual or case as they go through the justice system. Single and complete records allow greater insight to be gained and a more complete picture to be presented. This digital justice vision caters to our new world, where different needs can be met in different ways through mixed economies of in-person and remote ways of working.
Data is at the heart of the solution. An end-to-end view linked to the individual or case can give greater insights. For example, it can help provide valuable context into someone’s underlying challenges, whether it be substance abuse, mental health challenges that go unresolved, an educational or training need, etc. Armed with that knowledge, probation teams are more empowered to identify unmet needs and understand the best next steps. The data visualization tool means they are also able to compare outcomes across courthouses, review diversity data, and look at incident to outcomes ratios.
Access to critical support
In the traditional justice system, services and information are more siloed, and important touchpoints such as critical meetings with probation officers or lawyers are generally in-person. The continuity of these touchpoints risked being broken at the start of COVID-19. But this is where technology can play a pivotal role in maintaining access as well as enhancing it, in the form of video-enabled hearings as well as enabling a range of other meetings and touchpoints across the justice system. All of this is supported by digital case files, court scheduling, notifications, and even increased availability of staff when time spent on administrative tasks is also reduced.
The power of Digital Justice extends even further, touching on the issue of recidivism. When we think about recidivism and trying to work through those challenges for societies around the world, I think we see yet another opportunity for technology to really lean in. This end-to-end digital case file and insight can also extend beyond court systems and judicial processes, touching wider stakeholders such as social service entities, charities, and other support mechanisms designed to help keep people out of the criminal justice system.
Evolution of resistance to change
When we look around the world, we see that many of the challenges faced by the justice system – whether that’s civil, family, or criminal – are very similar, making a platform-based approach readily applicable. What we have seen during the pandemic, is some court systems modernized quickly taking advantage of cloud-based solutions, with built-in elasticity and scalability. For them, the impacts of the pandemic became an opportunity for the private and public sectors to work well together. Some others resisted or put in more temporary solutions and are now having to look to see how they can transform to address backlogs, enable new ways of working, meet citizen expectations, and have long-term sustainable solutions. The hesitation to change is reducing as the benefits of an end-to-end platform approach become more evident.
The evolution of thought takes time, as well as experiences that prove its worth. To that end, Accenture, using the Microsoft platform, is already building this digital justice vision by working to modernize the case management system of the US Probation and Pretrial of the U.S. District Court. Here we are designing, integrating, and implementing a new cloud-based case management solution, which is going to be deployed across all 9,000 pretrial and probation offices allowing them to utilize new technologies such as robotic process automation and machine learning. The result? Change that really helps court staff perform their mission and free them up from repetitive tasks to focus on more complex duties to better serve the courts and citizens from anywhere within the U.S. It’s steps like these that break down barriers to a whole new world of thinking!
Leading voices in public service
This Digital Justice solution is poised to help justice systems around the world better serve their staff, their communities, and their citizens. Benefits include an upskilled and empowered workforce, improved user experience, reduced running costs, swifter justice outcomes, increased operational efficiency, and, quite importantly, increased public confidence. This technology offers a wonderful opportunity for courts to remedy the current backlog of proceedings, while supporting humane and fair outcomes for all.
By James Slessor
About the author: James Slessor is Managing Director of Consulting and Public Safety Lead at Accenture.
This article originally appeared at https://www.accenture.com/us-en/blogs/voices-public-service/digitally-transforming-the-justice-system and is republished with permission.