FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 18, 2019
Tulsa, OK — Uptrust, a court reminder text message communication tool, has officially launched a partnership with the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office (TCPD) and Family & Children’s Services (F&CS).
Uptrust, TCPD and F&CS will work together to connect TCPD with defendants via text message to remind them of their court and scheduled legal appointments while also connecting those in need with F&CS social services.
Many times, the underlying cause of a FTA is not because the client is a flight risk. Instead, most FTAs are the result o
f client challenges around transportation, child care issues, mental health support and addiction recovery needs that exacerbate legal violations and often result in unnecessary incarcerations. The technology partnership will reduce costs and taxpayer burden for Tulsa County by improving client/attorney communication.
“So many of these issues — from housing, to financial hardship, to childcare, to FTAs— are related. It’s about tackling the problem earlier, before it gets worse,” said Jacob Sills, founder of Uptrust. “We hope to replicate this partnership’s mission and continue to seek ways to mitigate or even avoid unnecessary incarcerations, that this program allows us to focus on the root of the problem: what else may be going on in these defendants’ lives.”
Uptrust helps reduce and even eliminate FTAs and bench warrants by helping law enforcement focus on their most impactful work. Local governments spend more than $9 billion on unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and an additional $1 billion issuing and enforcing FTAs. Further, bench warrants have been shown to become expensive and wasteful of both taxpayer and law enforcement’s time and funds.
“We are excited to partner with F&CS to better serve our out of custody clients and reduce the failure to appear rate in Tulsa County. Uptrust has had great success in other jurisdictions and we are grateful to be able to introduce it here,” said Tulsa County Assistant Public Defender Glen Blake.
To date, Uptrust’s messaging system has reduced FTAs by more than 50 percent in certain jurisdictions, with 30 percent of users texting back to their attorney, continuing the correspondence. The platform provides a communication and reminder tool similar to many modern dentist or doctor appointments.
“Family & Children’s Services is delighted to be working so closely with the Public Defender’s office, helping individuals successfully exit the criminal justice system while supporting the need for longer term sustainability. Connecting individuals to housing, employment, transportation and child care strengthens families for more successful outcomes,” said F&CS Women in Recovery Chief Program Officer Mimi Tarrasch.
Partially funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, TCPD is one of 12 jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $148 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
Uptrust is a text message-based communication and engagement tool helping defendants arrive at court for their scheduled hearings and other mandatory appointments. By improving the relationship between the criminal justice system and defendants, Uptrust has proved to keep low-income defendants out of jail on bench warrants and technical violations, while also saving attorneys time and reducing the cost to the municipality or county. Uptrust currently is contracted with more than 15 public defender offices around the US, and reaches over 100,000 defendants. Uptrust is a public benefit corporation supported by the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, RFK Human Rights and the Heising-Simons Foundation; it has offices in San Francisco, CA and Northampton, MA. To learn more about Uptrust, visit www.Uptrust.co.
About Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office
The Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office is tasked with protecting the rights of indigent criminal defendants in Tulsa County. The agency, which includes 43 attorneys, handles around 9,000 criminal cases a year, including over 1,500 probation revocations and accelerations per year. The Public Defender’s office mission is to achieve the best possible results for the individual based upon the unique circumstances of each client’s life.
About Family & Children’s Services
For nearly a century, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.
Dee Harris, Family & Children’s Services
Glen Blake, Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office