Starting in early December, Sebastian County will send text reminders to defendants, notifying them of their court dates.
The project is in response to the high number of people who fail to show up for court. In 2021, 948 people received failures to appear from circuit court; 588 people received failures to appear from Greenwood District Court.
“The issue is people will forget that they have a court case or a date, and by getting a text message instead of some written letter that gets, you know, lost amongst the junk mail, they’ll be reminded ‘oh crap I had court today or hey oh no tomorrow or in a week I better ask off for work to get in there,'” said Kevin Smith, the director of technology services for the county.
The hope is that this will help people remember their dates in court.
“Hopefully they’ll be more diligent to appear in court,” said Tammy Luper, a business analyst.
People will receive texts reminding them of their court date for circuit court criminal cases and all Greenwood District Court cases.
The technology behind the system is through eCourtDate, Luper said in an email. The reminder will contain a date, time, location and note detailing the court case.
The system will automatically contact defendants when they are added to the system. When they are initially contacted, the defendants will be able to choose whether they want to be alerted for their court dates via text message.
People who do not want to receive text messages will still receive mailed letters with information about their court date.
For those who choose to opt into the text messages, the system will alert them when the court event is added. It will then send out reminders seven days before the court date, three days and one day before the court date. They will also receive texts if the judge chooses to reschedule their court dates.
The system is “really just more of a benefit, a benefit to them and actually a benefit to the court itself so they don’t have to waste resources,” Smith said.
Alex Gladden is a University of Arkansas graduate. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at [email protected].