They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, but finely – but what if the process could still be sped up while maintaining the quality of process and outcomes? That’s what the justice system, and courts across the country, have been discovering as they move towards digital strategies.
10-20 years ago, digitalization strategies were for businesses. However, in just the last few years, the justice system has begun adopting digital solutions such as land record software, CRM-style user databases, online payment systems, shared repositories for necessary legal documents, and more. This is resulting in a much more efficient court system that is easier for users at every level to navigate. From judges to jurors to everyday claimants, everyone is winning thanks to the digitization of judicial services.
The ways digitalization are improving the justice system are far-ranging. For example:
1 – Integration of videoconferencing
The COVID-19 outbreak effectively forced the court systems to adopt videoconferencing solutions on a wide scale, as lockdowns and quarantines prevented people from appearing in person. It didn’t take long for officers and citizens alike to wonder why it took so long to adopt.
Videoconferencing technology allows proceedings to continue, even if one or more participants are unable to attend in person. It also creates new alternatives for ensuring a fair trial if a participant cannot be safely brought into the courtroom, such as in certain sensitive criminal cases. This alone helps speed up the process and ensures fewer canceled sessions due to externalities.
2 – Better data access and distribution
Fact-finding is one of the most important functions of the justice system, and courts in general, and digitization is based around providing easy access to data. Submissions can now be aggregated and stored in central repositories, where all relevant parties can share and access the information they need.
This also helps prevent critical information from being overlooked. Data-driven repositories can offer an end-to-end overview of numerous aspects and processes in any case. For example, probationary teams have more access to information about the person’s history, such as medical conditions or past convictions, to ensure the process fits their situation.
Data visualization tools also offer numerous opportunities to delve into widespread data sources, such as large-scale crime statistics, to find new insights. It’s not hard to imagine difficult challenges such as reducing recidivism being made easier through these methods, as they become more widely adopted.
3 – Improved support for participants
Any judicial process requires the participation of dozens of people, at a minimum, and possibly hundreds. It can be difficult to keep them all on the same page or ensure critical communications are received by all relevant parties. Often there is a chain of touchpoints, where a failure at any point in the chain can result in all “downstream” parties failing to receive the information or other support they need.
Improved communications and data distribution, via digitization strategies, reduce the impact of these issues. There are more ways to stay in touch with participants in all levels, and more alternative forms of contact if lines of communication break down.
This also extends to citizens who need to meet dates for filing or paying fees. Better online payment portals, for example, can greatly increase the number of fees paid on time, without the need for expensive collections processes.
4 – Digitization in private spaces is reducing resistance to changes in public forums
Many in government can be conservative when it comes to adopting new technology, which is often reinforced by regulations mandating older methods even when new alternatives are available. This has created issues in the past, where clearly superior solutions are available, but either regulations or internal inertia prevent them from being deployed.
However, as digitization strategies become more commonplace – and more time-proven – in private industry, it becomes much easier to implement them in public functions. People are coming to increasingly expect robust digital support from any service they utilize, and are far less likely to stand in the way of proposed upgrades.
Then, as more court officers and other participants see the value in digital strategies, their use will only grow over time.
The Future of Justice Is Digital
At this point, the way forward has become clear: an increasingly digital and integrated approach to the justice system and courts. Digitalization offers improved experiences and outcomes for everyone involved, with no drawback beyond the initial upgrade investment costs. Once in place, these systems can quickly pay for themselves through reduced mistakes, fewer canceled court dates, and improved fee collection.
The judicial system should be looking toward a digital future, on all levels.