By Kate Elizabeth Queram, October 8, 2019 for Route Fifty
Minnesota is rolling out a statewide program that sends text messages and emails to remind defendants of their court appearances.
A program that sends email and text reminders of upcoming court dates will expand statewide in Minnesota after a one-county pilot significantly reduced the number of bench warrants issued for people failing to appear.
The eReminder program debuted two years ago in Hennepin County after officials there brainstormed ideas to reduce “repeat business” in the court system. One way, they thought, would be to cut down on missed appearances, which would in turn reduce the number of warrants issued for people who don’t show up for their court dates. The key solution they set on was rooted in a common experience: the endless reminders from medical offices in the days leading up to an annual exam or teeth cleaning.
“We started talking about what happens in our own homes when our doctors and dentists send us appointment reminders,” said Marcy Podkopacz, director of research and business practice for the 4th District Court in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis. “Even though we’re organized people … we have busy lives, we sometimes forget. Our clients, our customers in the court, a lot of times have chaotic lives, and if we can do something to help get them to court that is not going to be involving other law enforcement, or jail, that would be to everyone’s benefit.”