Workflow Breaks Down Barriers

02/27/2017
By G.F. Guercio, Contributing editor


From the first input at arrest through to incarceration and supervision, managing the data between functions and agencies has to clear many hurdles. Improved workflow streamlines the processes by automating much of the input including extraction and redaction, adding access to other agencies to quicken the process, and communicating case plan outcome to increase public safety.

When courts are able to utilize technology to streamline and simplify their workflows, the justice systems operate more efficiently, says Kendall Smith, business development manager at Thomson Reuters. “What we are seeing is that courts are beginning to understand that recreating paper processes in electronic form isn’t necessarily the best path to achieving the electronic court model.”

While seeing an increase in the willingness to adapt and change processes, there are still situations where individual courts require specific routing and processing for cases and documents, says Smith. “Court case management systems, like C-Track from Thomson Reuters that are built on open, evergreen technology now provide functionality offering dramatically increased, easy-to-update rules engines. What this means is that court administrators and IT professionals have the ability to easily and quickly adjust their workflows in-house.” The flexibility allows courts to test different workflows and explore the best processes for their operation.

“Courts are diverse and complex entities; full of carefully-choreographed processes, overlapping and intersecting tasks, and hundreds of details that have to be addressed every day,” concurs Ernie L. Sego, president/CEO of Justice Systems, Inc.

“FullCourt Enterprise provides the Court with a comprehensive, highly configurable, and automated workflow toolset that includes Work Queues, Reminders, Application Events, ROA (Register of Actions) entries, Courtroom Processing, and Overdue Processing. FullCourt Enterprise’s User Dashboard provides various widgets that allow users easy access to several workflow processes that include Courtroom Sessions, Work Queues, Reminders, and the Judges’ Daily Schedules.”

Sego furthers, “Work Queues now feature automated processing that automatically convert bonds, change case status, change warrant status, result hearings, enter pleas and findings, schedule hearings, assess fines/fees, and print documents. The system can process these queues either immediately as a case enters the queue or at a scheduled time.”

Its Courtroom Processing page was specifically designed to be used in high-volume courts, Sego notes. The page provides quick access to all disposition information for a single case or multiple cases and streamlines data entry for more accurate real-time access of those dispositions to all courtroom participants. The functionality along with pre-defined disposition macros and the Application Events, allows the court to quickly capture data real-time in the courtroom, while allowing multiple courtroom participants access to the courtroom docket.

Whether dockets or documents, Intellidact’s machine learning provides the ability to accelerate any workflow that previously required manual document classification, data entry and validation, according to Henry Sal, president of Computing System Innovations (CSI ). “The ability to place technology into our customers’ hands, allowing them to simply point and click on data that is of interest, and then have a machine learn how to find and classify such with high accuracy, will save our customers thousands of hours in manual document processing time.”

Intellidact’s robotic process automation solution records how users navigate applications, make decisions, and perform data entry tasks. When new documents arrive for processing, Intellidact’s software robots replay the recorded navigation and data entry steps, using data provided from Intellidact LBX data extraction. “This enables 24x7x365 autonomous processing of documents, and reduce document processing labor costs,” he says.

“Intellidact LBX empowers customers to easily create structured data from their unstructured documents in an expedited fashion.” He explains: Users select sample sets of documents, and then tag the data items they wish the system to extract or redact. Intellidact LBX then trains on the tagged documents, producing an initial knowledge base used in production processing to locate and extract new occurrences of data.

Advancements like these in workflow technology make it easier than ever to streamline internal court processes as well as exchange information between courts and outside agencies, notes ImageSoft vice president, Steve Glisky. In most instances, outside agencies use a different case management system (CMS) than the one used by the court.  “Depending on the CMS, modern workflow solutions like JusticeTech are able to bridge disparate systems quickly with little to no custom programming by using a point-and-click configuration utility.

“With this approach, workflow becomes a powerful tool to cost-effectively extend the capability of the CMS to break down the information silos between the internal and external organizations,” he says. For example, instead of pushing or faxing paper between the court and Department of Corrections (DOC), workflow is used to automatically exchange documents and data between the organizations, such as Orders of Probation, PSI (Presentence Investigation) Reports, Probation Violations, etc.

Another workflow use case is arraignments: Instead of manually creating and faxing documents to and from the jail, workflow is used to streamline the entire process from packet creation, electronic signing, and document distribution. “Deputies at the jail leverage tablet technology to communicate with the defendant. Documents are kept in sync between the court and jail management system.”

When it comes to supervision case management, software has been built to provide agencies the capacity to manage key data elements. “These products provide the basic ability to store data specific to the offender, much as an electronic filing cabinet,” says cFive Solutions’ CEO, William Kilmer. A few companies provide the ability to attach assessments to an offender or facilitate the development of a case plan.

Largely absent from these systems is the availability of data that helps to guide decision-making in any meaningful way, he notes. “cFive’s solutions enable agencies to move beyond compliance by facilitating automatic data collection, enabling remote client communication and tracking supporting evidence-based practices, providing outcome-oriented reporting, and delivering the data and insights to improve individual and program-level outcomes.”

The goals of community supervision agencies are improving public safety and positively impacting involved offenders, measuring how these offenders progress in terms of achieving case plan objectives and desired outcomes is critical, he says adding that traditionally, recidivism has been the dominant metric used to assess both public safety and offender outcomes.

“However, a much deeper level of data collection and assessment is possible with the use of cFive Supervisor, once descriptive data and individual data collection are in place. At this level, offenders are tracked relative to the services they receive and specific outcomes related to those services are measured.”

Sharing: Longstanding Challenge
Sharing such information securely and efficiently across government agencies, including justice agencies and public safety, has been a longstanding challenge, acknowledges Michael Kleiman, director of Marketing, Tyler Technologies Courts & Justice Division. “Organizations and agencies may operate with a shortage of resources or lack common goals and vision, and experience incompatible technology making integration difficult. With Tyler Alliance, information barriers are broken to securely, seamlessly and transparently connect organizations and information sharing for enhanced decision-making, increased safety, automated processes and reduced errors.”
Prior to adequate workflow solutions, courts would experience multiple “integrations” that were unaware of one another, he says. This could cause timing and sequencing conflicts where activities happened too early or late, resulting in odd or inaccurate results. “Workflow allows us to orchestrate different functions, whether in our software or with a third party, and have them all be aware of each other. “

Having a graphical representation of what you want workflow to do under what circumstances helps, explains Sue Humphreys, director of Industry Relations for equivant (formerly known as CourtView Justice Solutions before joining with Constellation Justice Systems Inc., and Northpointe Inc.).  “I’m drawing a picture of someone, I don’t draw the head on one page, the eyes on another, the shoulders somewhere else; I need to fit them all together so I don’t inadvertently leave out the neck. That’s what I like about modern workflow tools; that ability to model distinct work steps with a visual awareness of how they will fit and act with other steps or processes. The thing we’ve found most challenging is making sure that the workflow modeler is usable by IT and business analysts alike, so we’re taking the complex scripting logic and simplifying that with picklists and clear-cut expressions that make it easier to customize templates and create new flows.”

She says courts can expect to see more decision-driven or variable options within workflow, better interfaces for their staff to understand and design their own workflows, and better visual representation of work in-progress by cases, departments, resources, and tasks. Courts can expect that the concept of “resources” will continue to broaden to include not just staff but others on whom work may be dependent like partner agencies or case participants. “And that’s going to further opportunities for workflow to remind anyone who is integral to a process of their obligation to finish their task, show up, submit that filing, make a payment, transport that inmate, or what have you,” Humphreys says. “There are a lot of exciting possibilities for workflow in courts and we’re going to see them from helping the public on the front end all the way through post disposition monitoring.” CT

For more information contact:
cFive Solutions,  949.260.3000, www.cfive.com
Computing System Innovations, www.csisoft.com, info@csisoft.com
equivant  (formerly CourtView), 800.406.4333, www.equivant.com or info@equivant.com
Thomson Reuters, www.legalsolutions.com/court-management, courtmanagementsolutions @tr.com
ImageSoft, 888.315.3901, www.imagesoftinc.com
Tyler Technologies, 1.800.431.5776, www.tylertech.com, cjsales@tylertech.com
Justice Systems, Inc., 505.883.3987, or Jason Sego at jsego@justicesystems.com


 

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