Dallas County Public Defender’s Office and Uptrust Launch Court…

In addition, the platform allows Dallas-area Police to focus efforts on crime prevention as opposed to aggressively seeking out those who have failed to appear in court, which results in a safe environment for both police and citizens.

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The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office and Uptrust, the social justice communication platform, have announced a new partnership to employ Uptrust’s innovative, two-way communication technology.

"Allowing clients to message with their attorney before their hearing will allow for fewer incarcerations in the short and long-term," said Lynn Pride Richardson, Dallas County Public Defender.

The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office and Uptrust, the social justice communication platform, have announced a new partnership to employ Uptrust’s innovative, two-way communication technology which will reduce the number of Failure to Appear (FTA) incidents, arrest warrants, and technical violations in the county. The impact of implementing the unique platform is lower jail populations and a savings of millions of taxpayer dollars. In addition, the platform allows Dallas-area Police to focus efforts on crime prevention as opposed to aggressively seeking out those who have failed to appear in court, which results in a safe environment for both police and citizens.

“On any given night, too many people are being kept in Dallas County Jail for non-criminal acts like technical probation violations, missed court dates or non-violent minor offenses and simply cannot afford to post a monetary bail even though they have not been convicted of a crime," said Lynn Pride Richardson, Dallas County Public Defender. "Allowing clients to message with their attorney before their hearing will allow for fewer incarcerations in the short and long-term."

The Uptrust platform reinvents the court reminder system by sending personalized text messages to each public defender client from their assigned public defender. The messages act as reminders related to the client’s court hearing dates and other important legal appointments. Uptrust’s trademarked, communication platform also helps remind clients of meetings with their attorney, and to take time off work in anticipation of their court date. In the coming months, Uptrust will roll-out features in Dallas that allow attorneys and social-workers to refer their clients to local social services such as housing and employment assistance. Ensuring public defender clients are well-informed and connected to relevant social services will eliminate thousands of nights in jail per year and generate significant cost savings.

The Dallas County public defender’s office handles about 30,000 cases per year, which is approximately 50 percent of cases where a person qualifies for court appointed counsel. The new reminder program begins as the COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing measures continue to take effect. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many criminal court cases have been administratively adjourned due to the courts being closed. Many individuals with pending cases may not have any knowledge as to when their case will next be heard in court. Uptrust and the Dallas County Public Defender Office seeks to notify all of their clients of their next court appearance as well as the safety precautions that have been put into place.

To date, Uptrust’s messaging system has reduced Failure to Appear occurrences by more than 50 percent, with 30 percent of users texting back to their attorney, continuing the correspondence. The platform provides a communication and reminder tool similar to many modern dentist or doctor appointment applications tailored to the needs of low-income defendants. Dallas County is Uptrust’s second partnership in Texas, with two more set to launch in the next month. Uptrust is currently working with over 150 public defender offices in 26 states across and the US Territory of Guam.

Local governments spend more than $9 billion on unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and an additional $1 billion issuing and enforcing bench warrants when individuals are not present for their court appearance. Beyond the expense, enforcing warrants takes valuable time away from the police that could be spent on crime prevention. It also has the potential of being dangerous work, thus fewer bench warrants for failures to appear keeps both the police and the communities they serve safer.

“Dallas County recognizes that more needs to be done to assist more individuals awaiting their trial. Too many people are sitting in jail, who should not be there,” said Jacob Sills, founder of Uptrust. “Our partnership with the public defender will keep thousands of lives and families intact and save millions of dollars - a true win-win.”

ABOUT UPTRUST
Uptrust is a criminal justice system-focused communication and engagement tool helping defendants arrive at court for their scheduled hearings and other mandatory appointments. By improving the relationship between the criminal justice system and defendants, Uptrust has proved to keep low-income defendants out of jail on bench warrants and technical violations, while also saving attorneys time and reducing the cost to the municipality or county. Uptrust currently is contracted with more than 150 public defender offices around the US reaching over 900,000 defendants. Uptrust is a public benefit corporation supported by the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, RFK Human Rights, Schmidt Futures and the Heising-Simons Foundation; it has offices in San Francisco, CA and Northampton, MA. To learn more about Uptrust, visit http://www.Uptrust.co.
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