Pulaski County Courts Implement Text Notification System, FTA Reduction Hopeful

 

Many people miss court dates for various reasons, including misunderstanding court orders, forgetting an appointment or facing practical obstacles, from transportation to lack of childcare.

December 2021, District Court Judge Butch Hale’s staff sent its first court date notification via the text message notification system, eCourt Date.

eCourt Date founder Ibrahim Aissam, launched the system in 2019. It’s a mobile notification system that communicates court dates, reminders and additional court correspondence.

He explained that It’s easier for a person to be notified of a traffic ticket and any court obligations by text message, or an email instead of waiting weeks to get a mail notification, or maybe the court doesn’t have your correct address.

“We’re big supporters of eCourt,  they’ve been wonderful to work with I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for us, we primarily use them to notify defendants of their court date, which cuts down on our failures to appear, which is a big concern of most courts, the number of people that fail to appear, unfortunately, is very high,” Judge Hale said.

Judge Hale also said eCourt helps his staff by being easy to use. “My chief court clerk Grace has been advised me as to insofar as the ease of use to it and the wonderful support that we’ve gotten from the court staff they’ve been available practically 24/7.

“After the first of January, I have noticed a significant decrease in our failure to appears,” Chief District Court Clerk, Grace Gault said.

The system helps the public by reminding them of when their court dates are, which cuts down on fares to appear, which cuts down on potential warrants or their suspension of driver’s licenses, according to Judge Hale. He also mentioned that the system reminds residents about payments that are due and when they’re scheduled for their drug tests.

Judge Hale is thankful to his chief district clerk Grace Gault for their help with getting the system implemented.

“We’d also like to thank Judge Barry Hyde for providing us with this opportunity and Victor McMurray for his leadership and guidance throughout this process,” Judge Hale said. 

The goal is to close the gaps in communication between offenders and the judicial system and reduce failures to appear (FTA). Some may not have an email address or a mailing address, but more than 90% of Americans own a cell phone. This system is considered best practice nationally, reducing FTAs by 30%. 

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde suggested the system and approved the purchase of eCourt Date; however, the decision to use the system is voluntary.

“I’m glad to see county courts signing on to modernize our court system. eCourt Date will transform our courts to make them more efficient, accessible and environmentally friendly by reducing paper. I hope to see more courts signing on to this new technology,” said Hyde.

In addition to Judge Hale, Circuit Court Judge Catherine Compton, and Juvenile Judges Tawana Byrd and Shanice Johnson have implemented the system.

“We are in a time where we have more technology at our disposal and are obligated to use it. eCourt date is a great tool to bring the Court into the 21st century as it allows us to send text reminders to litigants regarding hearings and other case-related matters. I am excited to implement this technology in 10th Division,” Judge Shanice Johnson said. 

In 2020, the county was invited to become an Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research Action Site. APPR works with criminal justice professionals and their community partners to improve pretrial systems. Pulaski County is one of six research action sites in the U.S. 

A working group of approximately seven legal professionals and organizations is receiving technical assistance, data and evaluation support.

“Reducing FTAs was an area that could be addressed fairly quickly,” said Hyde. The group agreed the service was needed, and we got it done.”