An update to a case-management application is leading to serious glitches.
Sometimes a software upgrade can lead to a few bugs and compatibility issues, but in California, an upgrade to software used by the courts is robbing people of their freedom. Odyssey is the software in question, an application introduced to the California court system to help with case file management. The application, which was developed by Texas-based Tyler Technologies, costs about $5 million and was designed to gradually phase out decades old e-filing systems that have become obsolete.
Unfortunately, the upgrade has led to some people being arrested. One such example is a 24 year old who had just finished a six month drug program after being arrested with marijuana and ecstacy in his possession. It was his first offense and the case was dismissed by the judge, but after Odyssey was introduced to the local courts, a police cruiser turned up and put him in handcuffs. Tyler Technologies admitted that the upgrade had been “challenging”, citing poor training as a reason for improper data input. They also remarked that poor third-party integration often leads to glitches.
One of the system’s early adopters is Alameda county, which covers an area with 1.5 million people in the San Fransisco Bay area. Brendon Woods, the county’s public defender, is now supporting many clients affected by the software. According to Woods, the new software has a cumbersome interface which has lead to some record inputs jumping from 1 minute to a whopping 30 minutes. In addition to incorrect arrests and extended custody, Woods has even seen some misdemeanor charges being relabeled as serious felonies.
Public defender Brendon Woods
Woods sees the continued use of the software as a threat to the constitutional rights of many people in the county and has filed a motion to compel the courts to either keep accurate same-day records, or to completely abandon the new system. The initial judge chose not to hear the motion, forwarding it instead to a more senior judge who will review the case in January.