Integration Battle Improves Staff Efficiency
Increased case loads, redundant data entry between staff and outside agencies using disparate technologies, and lack of standardization within business processes…this was the situation that faced Bexar County during the implementation of the Bexar County Justice of the Peace Courts’ new court case management system (JPCMS).
How would the Bexar County IT Department and the JP courts create a solution that would streamline the efficiency of sharing data between agencies? The answer was found in a divide-and-conquer approach, with a public/private partnership that worked, said Bryan Roberts, Bexar County Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) project manager.
The IT department and the JP courts were fighting the battle of contrasting court case management technologies, lack of standardization of codes and business processes across multiple precincts, and rapidly growing caseloads, Roberts said. Cases were filed within the precincts utilizing the same system, but legacy business processes rapidly increased the workload of the courts staff. Moreover, in many instances, JP courts turned to various extraneous applications to mitigate shortcomings of their legacy case management system leading to inefficiencies caused by redundant data entry.
In June 2009, the Bexar County CJIS director and the JP courts entered into a contract with AMCAD and its Case Management System (CMS) utilizing Microsoft.Net technology.
“The aim of the county and the courts was to streamline the business processes using interfaces with outside agencies to reduce the amount of redundant data entry that was being performed by the JP courts staff,” Roberts said.
One of the goals of the implementation was to develop a message broker following national industry standards like NIEM and GJXMD, thus improving the efficiency of sharing data with outside agencies. This would benefit the courts by streamlining business process, reducing redundant data entry, and improving the quality of the justice process throughout the precincts, Roberts said.
Internally, the county started this process by creating standardization of codes and business processes to allow the court to develop a strategy for interoperability across justice agencies throughout the county. This provides judges with accurate accounts of case history when ruling to ensure the best interests of all parties were protected during the adjudication process. Furthermore, the JP courts intended to make the new court case management application the focal point for a host of interfaces ingesting data and automating functionalities for the court to streamline the case initiation process.
The county identified two major agencies that would benefit the courts immediately with the ability to receive traffic citation information from the agencies electronically instead of reliance on clerical staff re-entering citation information that the arresting agencies had already processed. The second area was truancy filings where the schools would submit case information in paper form and create a backlog for the JP staff to enter all the data. The CJIS director coordinated efforts with the school districts to create an interface that allowed the schools to submit the truancy information electronically thus reducing the amount of data entry the JP clerks had to perform.
Both solutions allowed the staff to review the case information electronically instead of rekeying the data.
The review process improves the quality of the information by ensuring the case information is reviewed before creating the case thus reducing data entry errors, Roberts said. Streamlining the clerks’ data entry workflow process also provided a secondary benefit for the courts by allowing the staff to provide increased service to the taxpayers of Bexar County.
The county’s IT department and Bexar County courts will continue to identify other outside agencies to exchange justice data thereby providing benefits to the agency, the courts and the Bexar County constituents, Roberts said.
Other identified areas that will be implemented within the short term are as follows:
· Web Portal/Public Access to provide access to case information for both the justice community agencies and the public, improving the quality of service provided by the JP courts to the taxpayers of Bexar County.
· Collection Agencies – the County Collections Department will have real-time access to JP court receivables and case information. This will improve the funds collection process which also benefits taxpayers.
According to Roberts, over the life of the implementation, the Bexar County Justice of the Peace Courts have successfully implemented an integrated Court Case Management System that utilizes a message solution that benefits the county as follows:
Streamlined Business Processes
Gained Efficiencies Through Technology
Cost Efficiencies by Implementing Technology
Improvement in Staff Utilization
`“The achievements that have been made within the courts are remarkable,” Roberts said. “This is a successful project which, in the end, will provide the Bexar County Justice Community with an extraordinary system – with functionality and interfaces – all of which will produce the most technologically advanced system which will benefit the Bexar County taxpayers by improving office productivity, data accuracy and information exchange.”