criminal case management systems

Court case management systems are designed to make the courts better. They achieve that mainly by making judicial services faster, efficient and fairer. A benefit that is often mentioned in one sentence with court case management systems is resource optimization. But making court proceedings efficient not always goes hand to hand with making courts effective. How to we make effective courts? First, let’s answer some questions about why courts are focused on cutting costs.

criminal case management systems

Why do courts need to optimize their costs?

Courts are facing financial challenges like other public sector organisations. This kind of pressure usually results in lay-offs, closure of court buildings and significant disruption in the court processes. Unlike other public sector areas, court case management is tightly intertwined with the human rights of citizens. Courts guarantee the right to justice and any disruptions in this regard have a deep imprint on our communities.

Related: How judicial case management systems can help courts to face financial challenges?

That explains why saving costs is the main driver behind the digital transformation intent of courts. But there are also other areas where courts should improve their work. For instance, the slow processing of cases is one of the biggest challenges of courts. Also, there is widespread public opinion that the sentences courts pass could be more effective and therefore more efforts are needed to reduce crime and protect the public.It is simply not good enough that we spend £4bn a year on prisons and probation, and yet make no real dent in the appetite of offenders to commit more crime. It is little wonder, when many of our most prolific criminals leave prison totally unsupervised in the community.

How governments are tackling the improvement of the justice system?

Governments are doing their part in identifying issues that need resolving to ensure the speedy and effective operations of courts. But this is not enough to reduce crime rates. The Center for Court Innovation gathered four principles that represent the essence of effective and efficient courts that aim to reduce crime rates.

The first principle is:

  1. Fairness. If we talk about values and courts, the first association that comes to mind is fairness. Justice systems around the world have implemented many reforms led by the idea of fairness. But how do participants in court cases perceive fairness? This is an important question because if individuals perceive that the judicial institutions are treating them fairly, they would be more likely to comply with court orders. Therefore this will lead to reduced levels of future offending.

    The victims’ perceptions are also influenced similarly. If victims perceive that the justice system is listening to them and is taking into account their views are more likely to be witnesses again.

    “Fair and respectful handling of people, treating them with dignity, and listening to what they have to say, all emerge as significant predictors of legitimacy, and thus preparedness to cooperate with legal authorities and comply with the law. In other words, procedural fairness may not only be valued in its own right, but it may actually be a precondition for an effective justice system.”
    Source: Attitudes to sentencing and trust in justice: exploring trends from the crime survey for England and Wales.

  2. People-oriented court systems. ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ This famous quote from Leo Tolstoy is a good description of the problem with the courts and their focus at people. Even though the court system is processing a lot of cases that are not complex in a legal sense, the individuals that are involved are complex beings, everyone in their own way. That’s why one of the principles for better courts implies that:

    “Courts that are trying to understand the best way to work with individuals, make better decision about sentencing and the use of resources. Justice systems that understand that, prove to be efficient in cutting crime and protecting the public.”

    Source: Center for Court Innovation.

    This principle for better courts requires from judicial institutions to make individualised decisions. This flexibility is achievable with court case management systems that allow justice institutions to understand better the people and and cases coming to court.

  3. Authority. Courts are the institutions that represent the authority in the justice sector. However, there is evidence from the USA that if the court can extend its authority by continuing to hold offenders to account after being sentenced, it can make a vital impact on crime in specific types of cases.

    Professor Mark Kleiman of Public Policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs describes it in this way:
    “Make the rules less numerous, the monitoring tighter, and the sanctions swift, certain, and reasonably mild, and… clearly tell each probationer and parolee exactly what the rules are and what exactly will happen, every time and right away, when a rule is broken. Mildness – or proportionality, if you like – is essential to making the threat credible.”
    Source: Kleiman, M.A.R. (2013). Smart on Crime.

    The conclusion of Kleiman’s research is a testament that there is emerging evidence that where the court is explicitly clear at sentencing about how it will use its authority, especially about how it will respond to non-compliance, this can help defendants desist from crime.

  4. Timely actions. The courts must process cases fast. The speed of court proceedings is more than a performance metric. It’s a crime cutting essential. Evidence shows that delays between the offence and the completion of a case undermine the effectiveness of the sentence in the eyes of victims and offenders.

    The swift resolution of court cases is not just about efficiency; it is also about the system treating the cases it hears seriously and being seen to do that. And it is directly related to the other principles for better justice laid out by the Center for Court Innovation.

By focusing on the contribution it can make to reducing crime, a court can make better use of its own resources for greater public impact. –

Center for Court Innovation

Key takeaways

  • In a time of financial challenges, courts must build on what exists
  • The justice systems in countries like the U.S., EU member states, Canada, UK, etc. are all good examples with courts that embraced the four principles for better courts to some extent, but they are all systems that also must to better.
  • The four principles for better justice are outlining a progressive vision for the future of courts.
  • Court case management systems enable courts to leverage on existing and emerging technology to embrace fully the principles for better courts. Justice technologies can bring performance improvements in the judicial systems, but they can also reduce the crime rates if applied efficiently.

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