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Court Notifications Best Practices

In a previous post, I discussed the importance and value of providing outbound court notifications.  Today we'll take a look at some best practices for sending effective outbound notifications.

Notification Content

There are multiple posts and sources, including the link below, which cite that reminding people of court dates, when combined with other messages regarding the consequences of FTA (failure to appear), is more effective than just sending date, time and location notifications. 

In addition, notifications are being customized with remote appearance instructions (number to call along with PIN, or video link information) or Covid-related instructions, such as "if you are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive in the last 10 days, please call the court."     

Frequency and Quantity of Messages

Depending on the type of event, consider sending multiple notifications leading up to the event date and time.  In the example of an upcoming hearing, an initial notification might be sent two weeks before the hearing date, followed by additional reminders one week, one day and two hours prior to the scheduled time.  It can also be beneficial to send notifications after events for FTA or past due payments.

Notification Methods

It can be useful to provide notifications in multiple ways, and if sending multiple notifications for a single event, it might be good to combine different types of notifications, such as post cards, emails, automated calls and text messages.  

The New York City Criminal Justice Agency has provided a comprehensive publication that shares summary data from multiple studies, and delves deeper into best practices, including data collection, messaging templates, when to send notifications, how to evaluate the success of your program and more.



The Value of Outbound Court Notifications

We get notifications reminding us of our many things in our daily lives, such as dentist appointments, package deliveries, or the expected arrival time of the cable TV repair technician.  There has been a dramatic increase in usage by the public sector - perhaps most notably regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. While attending the NACM (National Association of Court Management)  in mid-July, we had some interesting conversations that underscored the importance of court notifications, the focus of this post.

Courts use notifications for a variety of things, including jury service reminders, hearing reminders, payment reminders, collections notices and more. When it comes to criminal cases, nationwide, 35% of defendants fail to appear for court dates.  As a result, warrants are issued, people are detained for days weeks depending on the nature of the charges, and the court date is rescheduled.  This slows down an already backlogged system, and the cost of issuing and serving warrants and detaining people is staggering.  Courts that have implemented hearing reminders have experienced a reduction in failures to appear, and since the cost of each reminder is pennies, it is a valuable tool.  

Payment reminders are an effective way of improving cash flow.  Collections notices are also effective because most people want to avoid being sent to a collection agency and courts want to avoid this because a significant percentage of the revenue is often retained by collection agencies - as much as 25% or more.  Jury reminders are now offered by jury management system providers and IVR system providers alike, and help to improve jury yields.   

By selecting the right solution for your needs and following best practices, the impact and value of these reminders will be optimized.  We will cover this topic on a future post. 



Assistance for Customers Impacted by Coronavirus

Organizations and enterprises of all types and sizes continue to monitor coronavirus, and are determining ways to minimize risk and contain the spread of new cases.  Whether it's schools shifting to online classes, factory closures, or work-for-home options made possible via collaboration and communications technologies, this is an unprecedented moment. It quite possibly will re-shape the ways organizations operate, or at least how they respond to future pandemics. 

At ATI-streamWrite we want to do our part to help.  Portals/IVR customers, remember you have an emergency message that can be used for the very purpose of notifying inbound callers of operations changes.  When recording an emergency message and turning it on, it is the first thing callers will hear.  Here is an example of an emergency message a Court might employ for jurors calling in regarding jury service.  "You have reached Gotham Superior Court.  If you are summoned for jury service and are experiencing any acute respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, headaches, flu-like symptoms, have a fever, or are coughing or sneezing, please do not report for jury service.  Instead, request a postponement using our automated system, or contact the Jury Office to reschedule your service to a later date." 

Portals Communications may be a valuable tool that can be used to conduct outreach to notify customers of important updates.   

For existing customers using VCourt for remote appearances that need to expand capacity, a conference burst agreement is a fast way to accommodate your needs.  We can very quickly provision new customers of any type for conferencing capabilities or Portals Communications.  Please contact the support desk or your account manager at 800-333-8394 and we will do our best to assist.