Uptrust Launches Partnership with Yolo County Public Defender’s Office

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“When most defendants miss court it is because they never received the reminder or forgot, not because they are fleeing," said Jacob Sills, founder of Uptrust.

Uptrust, the criminal justice-focused text message communication and reminder service, today announced that it has officially launched its partnership with the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office. The Office joins more than 11 established Uptrust contracts with county and state governments across the Country, all to reduce the number of Failure to Appear (FTA) incidents, arrest warrants and technical violations.

The Uptrust-Yolo County partnership is slated to reduce costs for Yolo County in terms of improved efficiency for attorneys as well as decreased jailing for violations such as FTAs. According to Yolo County records, Failures to Appear (FTA) are the second most common reason (11.7%) for individuals being booked at the Yolo jail. Data indicates that law enforcement officers waste several hours transporting an individual to the detention center to be booked on an FTA warrant.

“Through this partnership with Uptrust, we can reduce the number of people who miss court, and help more clients keep their jobs and families intact,” said Tracie Olson, Yolo County Public Defender. “Simultaneously, we will preserve jail beds for those who pose a true public safety risk, instead of locking people up simply because they can’t maintain a good calendar.”

This working partnership is even more important now because many California counties have struggled with means to lower jail populations, while not weakening public safety or infringing upon defendant’s liberties.

"Bail reform is about finding avenues of support for people to get to court that doesn't cost them money, or require system supervision," said Benee Vejar, a bail reform organizer for Silicon Valley De-Bug, a civil rights organization pushing for state and national bail reform. “Something as straightforward as text reminders for court is a common sense way to get California out of the false choice of money bail or system surveillance.”

Currently, local governments spend more than $9 billion on unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and an additional $1 billion issuing and enforcing FTAs. At the same time, bench warrants can become wasteful of law enforcement’s time and funds. By eliminating FTAs and bench warrants, Uptrust helps law enforcement to ultimately focus on their most important work.

Uptrust and the Yolo County Public Defender will work together under an agreement that will see that all public defender clients (who represent the majority of defendants within Yolo County) receive text reminders for their court dates. The trademarked Uptrust platform helps public defenders’ offices connect with defendants to remind them to show up at court and other scheduled legal appointments.

“Since FTAs are the second most common reason for individuals to be booked at the Yolo jail, launching Uptrust’s messaging service in Yolo County couldn’t be more fitting to help make a change in people’s lives,” said Jacob Sills, founder of Uptrust. “When most defendants miss court it is because they never received the reminder or forgot, not because they are fleeing. We look forward to helping Yolo’s citizens receive fairness and decisions that are favorable and just, and not misrepresented by a failure to appear due to reasons that can be avoided through modern technology.”

To date, Uptrust’s messaging system has reduced FTAs by over 50 percent in certain jurisdictions, 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 appointments.

Uptrust’s partnership specifically with Yolo County is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, a foundation based in Los Altos, California. As part of its human rights and justice reform investments, the Heising-Simons Foundation is supporting an expansion of Uptrust’s work in California.

Uptrust is a text message-based 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 10 public defender offices around the US, and reaches over 100,000 defendants. Uptrust is a public benefit corporation supported by the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, RFK Human Rights 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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