Virginia Indigent Defense Commission Pilot Program

On any given day, half of defendants fail to appear for their court proceedings has courts around the country utilizing text messaging services to remind people to show up for court. Failure to appear defendants cost tax payers time and money and may also cost defendants their freedom. Using text reminders is just part of the larger effort to reform bail and other areas of the criminal justice system for individuals charged but not yet convicted of a crime.
Already being used in more than a dozen states by Public Defenders and Court Administrators, many claim that the reminders are a big help to all involved. The Virginia Indigent Defense Commission used a grant to start a pilot program in Richmond and Petersburg, contracted with a San Francisco based company called Uptrust.
Uptrust’s software accesses the names, cellphone numbers and court dates, along with other information to track cases. They then send a series of reminders for each defendant, usually ten days, one week and the day before their scheduled hearing. The cost for this service is initially $10,000 to $20,000, and an additional $2 fee for each defendant that receives text reminders. To date, Failure to Appear warrants have dropped from 26% to as much as 51.9% since implementing the text reminder system in as little as 90 days.
 

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