California’s courts are rolling out new software called ‘Odyssey’ which deals with case file management – but it is jeopardising people’s jobs and freedom. ‘Odyssey’ was created by Texas-based Tyler Technologies, costs about $5m and is set to gradually replace a decades old e-filing system. Problems have seen people wrongfully arrested, held in prison longer than required and in several cases mistakenly told they must register as sex offenders.
Tyler Technologies said in a statement that the upgrade process had been “challenging” – but said poor training was to blame for bad inputting of data and integration with third party applications that often introduce glitches into the system.
Almameda County’s public defender, Brendon Woods, is now supporting many clients who have been affected by the issues. He said a cumbersome user interface was causing the time taken to update a record to jump from around one minute to as much as 30 minutes per entry. As well as wrongful arrests and incorrectly extended custody, there have been several cases of misdemeanour offenses incorrectly appearing on the system as serious felony charges. Mr Woods has described the system as “unfit for purpose”.
He sees the continued use of the software as a threat to the constitutional rights of many people living in the county, “It’s something that shouldn’t happen. When you could be out in the community, working, providing for your family, seeing your kids… and then one minute you are in jail – due to no fault of your own? That is absolutely terrible.”
Mr Woods has filed a motion to compel the court to either keep accurate same-day records or completely abandon the new system. The initial judge in the case chose not to hear the motion, instead referring it to a more senior judge to be heard in mid-January. Mr Wood’s argued that is too long to wait so he has appealed against that decision to Alameda County’s Superior Court.
Mr Woods said, “We’ve had clients who were supposed to register as drug offenders, the system shows them as registering as sex offenders.”
Tyler Technologies defends its software and shifts blame back to Alameda County’s staff. It said many factors could impact the software’s usefulness, among them training of those who use the technology.
Spokesman Tony Katsulos said, “We are confident that we have the experience to help our client navigate those inevitable headwinds, just as we have done many times before with other complex implementations. However, this must be a co-operative process. A project’s success is contingent on both parties – the jurisdiction and the software provider - working co-operatively together. We have reiterated our commitment to this approach to Alameda and continue to make ourselves available to them.”
Similar problems have been reported in Tennessee and Indiana where inmates were being mistakenly released early.