CivTech St. Louis and its partners are developing a tech-based solution to issues that people commonly have with the municipal courts. This text- and web-based system will allow citizens to find their ticket information, alternative ways to resolve their case, payment options, and how to request a continuance. It only requires a cell phone – it is not an app, and does not require a data plan to operate.
The development of these technology solutions considers results from 359 in-person surveys conducted in the Fall of 2015. With the generous in-kind help of Social Work students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, individuals leaving municipal courts in North and Northwest County were asked to provide their feedback to a number of questions regarding their experiences with the courts and their use of technology. Most people enthusiastically participated and many approached the surveyors themselves, wanting to provide input. The number 2 wish of citizens who were leaving municipal courts at the time of surveying was to receive text alerts and reminders when something happened with their case. This system will allow the 90% of our survey respondents who use texting to overcome the information between courts and citizens. (The #1 wish is to be able to pay tickets online, a component of the system currently being explored.)
No, this text system will not reach the 10% who don’t text. No, these tech-based reform efforts will not address issues of institutionalized racism and systemic poverty plaguing our communities. What this system will do is streamline things for those who must engage with our municipal courts, and ease issues with arrests and spiraling fees and fines. Both citizens and courts will be able to better engage with, instead of detach themselves from, each other.
We’ll be blogging more about this in coming weeks, so watch out for additional updates.