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Citizen Engagement Blog

New Rules for Citizen Engagement in the Justice System

shutterstock_245545876.jpgDo you feel that your constituents want to run the other way instead of dealing with your court and corrections system processes? And I don’t mean jumping bail or the sudden urge to “head out of town.” I’m talking about the IDEA of dealing with a complex and time-consuming process to get information or resolve an issue that affects them. No one’s lining up to be first in line like a Black Friday sale, are they? There are better ways and new rules that make “By the Book” justice system procedures and services easier to handle by your constituents and public employees.

Constituents involved with their state or local justice system – whether charged with an offense, related to an inmate, or simply called for jury duty – are already under stress. They don’t need additional frustration from interacting with complex processes to get help. The same holds true for the overburdened public employees and officials who serve them. That’s why it’s so important for the departments of corrections and the courts to match service delivery to constituent needs and preferences. In other words – the easiest, most flexible way possible.

Double trouble

Here are a couple of examples.

  1. The mother of an inmate wants to order a package of food items, toiletries and cigarettes to be delivered to her son, an inmate in a state correctional facility. To order from the Department of Corrections’ contractor, she first must have Internet access, an email address, a debit card and the inmate’s ID number. However, as a low-income resident in a rural area, with no Internet connectivity, she can only get online at the library (10 miles away) – and that still doesn’t solve the email address problem.
  1. In another scenario, potential jurors for a county’s Superior Court receive a paper summons and must call in every day, after 5 p.m., to listen to a long recording about which jurors will be required to appear in court the next day. This process takes up to 15 minutes daily, for three weeks.

In both these situations, flexible access to self-service (a choice of mobile app/web, website and voice) is the “magic bullet” that meets both constituent and government needs.

Help in a hurry

Compared to other government functions, the justice system tends to impart a sense of urgency – even crisis to a frequently revolving pool of constituents. People often need to find information or complete a transaction right away, using whatever device is handy.  If new to the system, they are undoubtedly unfamiliar with processes and procedures. This combination of urgency and cluelessness can place a heavy burden on program support representatives and public service staff, leading to long wait times and added frustration. 

Consider these scenarios:

  • A mother must post bail for her teenage son who has been arrested in the middle of the night.
  • A wife has been asked to make a deposit to her husband’s prison account over the weekend.
  • A resident who is out of town for two weeks wants to check on a possible jury summons.

In these cases, traditional communications via live agent phone calls and office visits are either unavailable or inconvenient and time-consuming.  Time is of the essence for these individuals, they need resolution FAST!

Meanwhile, government entities face their own challenges. If constituents do not follow the rules (by failing to show up for an appointment or hearing or respond to a jury summons), it costs a lot of money and bogs down the justice system. However, traditional paper-based notifications and reminders are cumbersome and labor-intensive. Live assistance only during business hours does not meet constituent needs for round-the-clock availability, but budgets usually do not permit coverage on weekends and nights.

Flexible access to self-service allows departments to be:

  • Responsive to constituents’ preferences
  • More efficient in managing costs and state worker operations
  • Proactively driving process and program compliance and services
  • Confident about the security of interactions and protection against fraud

Sounds like a win-win solution to me!

Better engagement: an open and shut case

The old model of customer engagement via a single channel no longer serves constituent needs. They want the convenience, ease, and comfort of their favorite device, and the ability to take control of the interaction, rather than wait for someone to help them.

New digital solutions enable constituents to find information, pose questions, complete transactions, and schedule appointments using a mobile app, mobile web, or website that offers quick self-service or flexible representative messaging capabilities.

While digital channels are now the preferred option for many, people who need support via the phone shouldn’t be left behind…or on hold. Seamless self-service using advanced interactive voice response (IVR) solutions empower people to solve their issues without waiting for an agent or managing complex, inefficient call menu options.

Have you called your department’s IVR recently? Was it a long process; were the menu options efficient to get you where you needed to be; did you feel like it was an effective use of your time and effort; did you have to repeat yourself again and again? You may not be aware that new technologies (real-time personalization, for instance) are available to improve program outcomes and service levels. A satisfying experience can minimize the need to speak with a live representative – a more costly option.

Speaking of saving money, advanced technologies can help ensure compliance with court dates and jury duty by proactively pushing out voice or digital reminders. Getting people to show up reduces expensive rescheduling and expedites justice.  

Closing arguments

So, let’s reconsider those earlier scenarios in the context of citizen engagement using efficient and helpful digital and voice technology. Individuals can now access information and transact business from any device, at any time – not just during normal business hours. If they choose mobile, they can start and stop an interaction anytime, knowing they can pick it back up and resume where they left off – great benefit during a crisis. They can share photos and record notes for reference, and even message with a representative for complex issues. If they use voice access, they enjoy a streamlined, personalized experience that expedites the call and creates more successful interactions.

Raise your hand if you are ready to make “By the Book” a constituent experience that is effortless, convenient, and flexible.


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Topics: Industry Insights Justice System