Collaborative Justice Technology: A Compounding Investment in the Pandemic Era (And Beyond)

In 2021, technology is not only fundamentally changing how industries function, but also the ecosystems they are a part of, in no small part due to the global pandemic. An organization can choose the degree to which they will embrace the purposeful evolution of their ecosystem in uncertain times. The organizations with the strongest embrace will see the other side while also leading the innovation of their industry. Such innovation is the domain of teams of highly collaborative teams versus the great insight of an individual innovator.

Transforming a Traditional Ecosystem

The Justice system is a traditional ecosystem with hardened processes (laws are about as hardened a process as you can get) and well-established training initiatives. Is it possible to apply new technology tools to realize drastic benefits?

The opportunity to improve communication lies in the application of technology, precisely because the processes are hardened and the training is well-ingrained into the traditional culture of Justice systems, wherever you look.

With this backdrop let’s see how the four categories below can be applied to the Justice ecosystem, transform it with collaborative technology and compound the ROI of the initial business case.

  • Operational Savings
  • Productivity Improvements
  • Strategic Transformation
©️ Unsplash

Operational Savings

The lowest hanging fruits in any ecosystem are operational savings. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently in a way that allows you get the same result but with less cost. Let’s take the remand process as an example.

Remanded inmates are individuals who do not qualify for bail and who instead are being held in pre-detention facilities, waiting to have their trial. When they are required to appear in front of a judge it is referred to as a remand appearance. Remand appearances require a lot of people and activity to conduct. Accused individuals typically need to spend an entire day being moved from the detention facility to the courtroom and then back. This requires accompanying guards (at least 2, sometimes up to 4), specialized vehicles for transport, all the costs of being away from the facility for the day – food, gas, etc., facilities at the courthouse to hold the prisoners until it is time for their hearing, and the risk of moving prisoners around is inherent in the undertaking.

Applying video conferencing technology to facilitate remand appearances is a perfect example of how substantial cost can be taken out of the ecosystem, maintaining the same end result.

The Operational Savings = Cost avoided / Cost of video conferencing technology

While it is difficult to obtain costs for all the components involved, here is a high level estimate of the costs that could be avoided:

Costs Avoided
1)    Guards (avg. of 3) for a day = 3 x 8 hours x burdened hourly rate of Guards = 3 x 8 x $50 = $1,200 day
2)    Cost of transportation: specialized vehicle + expenses = $750/day
3)    Facilities requirements to handle prisoners in courthouse = $300/day

So, one remand appearance is probably costing taxpayers at best about $2,000. Multiplied by the number of appearances in a year that could be delivered via technology ~ 14,000 x $2,000 = $28,000,000 / year. Over a 10-year period, that is $280,000,000. Even if the estimate for the cost of one remand appearance is 50% above actual costs, there is still significant opportunity to realize operational savings.

Investing in the infrastructure required to facilitate these hearings would be significantly less than the 10-year cost of doing it without technology. One of the key investments in this process is the technology in the courtroom that allows the remand appearances to be conducted remotely.

In any organizational ecosystem there are always rooms where people from different parts of the ecosystem come together to meet. In the judicial system, these are the courtrooms in the various courthouses across the country.

A courtroom is where the 4 different constituents (Judicial, Legal, Law Enforcement and Corrections) come together to conduct their trials and is the focal point for moving the judicial process forward. To enable new communications tools to change the processes, the courtrooms must be equipped with the technology required to conduct electronic communication, which are rich experiences – just like being there.

Productivity Improvements

Courtrooms that have been enabled in this way can now be much more productive in processing the courtroom workflow (the proceedings) – a must given the backlog created by the shutdown of physical locations as a result of the pandemic. A judge in court can hold remand appearances sequentially, connecting with prisoners who appear, via video, from various correctional facilities – one after another. The physical scheduling and logistics that used to be a key component of the “old method” suddenly becomes vastly simpler and less costly. The simplified scheduling and logistics of remand appearances through the use of video conferencing technology also increases the number of appearances processed. The beneficial results of doing this:

  • Less facilities required for remand prisoners = less time required in remand facilities
  • Greater use of the judge’s time, as well as other court personnel, and their ability to handle cases (therefore less judges and court personnel required)
  • Less backlog of cases to be heard
©️ ET Group

The opportunity for greater productivity in the Justice ecosystem can be found in many other processes. Many jurisdictions have learned that leveraging video can reduce — or eliminate — many of the hidden delays and costs of the Justice system associated with logistics such as travel time for a variety of participants including witnesses, interpreters, attorneys and inmates. In an ecosystem where everyone wants to talk to the inmate (prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, judges, etc.) easier access via video can accelerate workflow.

  • Judges can hold sessions across a wide variety of locations one after the other all from the courtroom or chambers
  • Cases get processed faster – no delay waiting for critical mass of cases in remote locations
  • Bail hearings can be enabled by video
  • Plea bargains can be implemented much faster (don’t need a 2 hour process to get into the jail to see prisoner), which means less time in jail for visitors and less requirements for facilities
  • Access to justice – inmates can access attorneys and other legal aid remotely, which includes the benefit of upholding social distancing guidelines
  • Video testimony – expert witness (can greatly reduce cost),
  • Vulnerable witness – appearing in court is dangerous, disruptive and disturbing but their testimony can be critical; video makes it easier
  • Interpreters – can handle multiple sessions just minutes apart in different locations. Therefore overall need goes down because of the tremendous compression of time.
  • Telemedicine and educational programs in prisons
  • Visitation

Clearly these productivity improvements, which were not planned for as part of the initial business case, would likely add even more financial benefits. Often, the productivity benefits that are realized in an ecosystem will quickly outweigh the operational savings provided.

Strategic Transformation

As new communications infrastructure and endpoints have been put in place over recent years – a process accelerated by the pandemic – the Justice ecosystem is being unintentionally transformed with far greater capability than was initially envisioned. The people who are using the new communications tools will start to apply the same tools to situations that were never envisioned at the start of the ecosystem’s transformation.

Let’s look at three real life examples of strategic transformation in the Justice ecosystem:

1) International Trials

With the globalization of business, there are now occasions where the globalization of court communications could greatly help the operation and productivity of trials that happen where multiple countries are involved. Our company, ET Group, facilitated a trial like this where two courtrooms in two different countries were in a single combined session at exactly the same time. The benefits were substantial:

  • Air travel was substantially reduced
  • Lawyer’s monetary and timespend costs for that travel were eliminated
  • The proceedings were able to progress faster because both courtrooms in both countries were connected to each other in real time.

One court session brought together two different jurisdictions simultaneously.

©️ Pexels

2) Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs)

The use of VMRs in a collaborative ecosystem typically happens at a later stage in the development of the ecosystem. VMRs are very powerful because they can:

  • Drastically reduce costs
  • Drastically accelerate the workflow (the velocity of collaboration) of both existing processes and re-engineered processes

In the Justice ecosystem a perfect example of using VMRs would be to allow the general public to pay their traffic tickets with a hearing in a VMR. When you use a VMR you don’t need a courtroom (massive cost savings), and you allow a person who received the traffic ticket to call into the VMR for their trial. The judge, the officer, the lawyer (if required) and the defendant would all be participants in the VMR. The result is significant savings in travel costs for all involved.

Using VMRs as described in the traffic ticket scenario above would also require software which would would mimic the workflow of the traffic court. People would need to check in online, be held in a queue waiting to see the judge in the VMR with the other participants. But over time this additional expense stands to be minimal compared to what could be saved through the strategic use of VMRs within the Justice collaborative ecosystem.

3) Collaborative Portals

With technology infrastructure in place, new functionalities can be implemented that were not possible before. With software, recordings of the courtroom proceedings can now be captured in a way that was not previously possible. Video and audio streams can be recorded simultaneously from the different cameras and microphones in the courtroom and can be captured as the record of the court.   These court records can be:

  • Instantly archived in the courtroom, with two layers of back-up (courthouse and datacenter)
  • Instantly retrieved whenever required by authorized personnel
  • Transcripted instantly
  • Distributed with different pieces redacted in the recording, depending on who needs to review the record
  • Used as evidence in a court of law and have the veracity to stand up to any challenges
  • Be used in an online secure portal for authorized personnel to collaborate by reviewing and commenting on the record

Extending capabilities leverages the initial investment in technology already in place and further accelerates the velocity of collaboration in the Justice ecosystem, thus compounding the initial investment.

There are more than just these three strategic transformation examples which stand to further influence the business case for investment in a new collaborative technology platform. Being able to continue to conduct business and enable access to justice for citizens using VMRs in the face of a global pandemic – in some cases more than ever before – is a prime example.

Conclusion

The natural evolution of a collaborative ecosystem is to capture operational savings first, then to realize productivity gains as a by-product through the extension of the technology to new processes, and finally, hit the home runs through the strategic transformation of the ecosystem.

It takes considerable fortitude by those steering the ecosystem to make the investment without truly understanding how the ecosystem will function when the collaborative technology is fully implemented and enabled. They must resist the temptation to cut corners and compromise on the building of the platform that will become the foundation for transformation for years (if not decades) to come.

All its woes aside, COVID-19 helped accelerate a fundamental systemic change that was already occurring – one that has now proven itself here to stay. The technology stakeholders in Justice systems around the globe would do well to take notice.

WEBINAR: Hosting Large Group Video Conferences Effectively

WHEN: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
TIME: 3:00 p.m. (EDT) | 12:00 p.m. (PDT)
LENGTH: 60-Minutes

Are you having difficulty hosting effective remote large group meetings? Are they making you and your colleagues feel bored, frustrated, or disengaged?

Many companies in the last month have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s presenting new roadblocks and challenges to enabling better communication, collaboration, and connection while hosting and participating in large group remote meetings.

Dirk Propfe, the CEO of ET Group is hosting a 60 minute webinar with expert virtual facilitator Brent Lowe. Brent will help you learn how to better host more effective and meaningful large group remote meetings through some of the best practices and approaches.


What you will learn:

  • How to have more meaningful and effective meetings
  • How to make everyone feel included and engaged
  • How to work well together as a team in a large group setting
  • How to get innovative ideas from unexpected sources
  • How to work on complex topics together

Cloud Video Conferencing (VCaaS) – Is It Worth It?

Cloud Computing Infographic-4

Making Your Meeting Places Audibly Accessible

Is your company AODA Compliant?

Different real time communications technologies, (audio, video, content, and interactive whiteboarding), can be combined in unique ways to suit each collaborative situation. A collaborative session is like a spinning top made of varying amounts of each of these four technologies. The tops may be different shapes and sizes, each top suiting the needs of the participants in the collaborative meeting, but the point of the top is always the audio technology. If there is no audio, there is no real time collaboration session – the top will not spin.

Audio technology is often taken for granted. Even though it is the most fundamental of the conferencing technologies it often gets the least focus. Audio technology has been compromised ever since mobile phone technology has become ubiquitous and more prevalent than landlines. Why? Because a mobile phone call gets packed into an 8kbps call.

A digital music file compressed into 128 kpbs sounds pretty good, however, at 64 kbps the fidelity drops off significantly and a 32 kbps song is hardly worth listening to.  An 8kbps voice call, which people have become accustomed to, does not provide good audio quality.

Why do we put up with this inferior audio quality?  For the convenience that the mobile phone gives us.  We sacrifice a lot of audio quality for mobile convenience, but good audio in a conference call is fundamental. It is often the difference between communicating and not communicating.

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your conferencing better, so people can hear what is being said properly – better communication.

Hearing Impairment

Our world can be challenging for the hearing impaired. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevalent:

  • Nearly 1 out of every 4 adult Canadians reports having some hearing loss
  • Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and the most widespread disability. Its prevalence rises with age – 46% of people aged 45 to 87 have hearing loss
  • Aging is the number one cause of hearing loss and the incidence of hearing loss is poised to climb dramatically as our population ages

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your meeting places better, so hearing impaired people can hear what is being said properly – accessible communication.

Legally, you don’t have a choice.

Equip your Organization with the Necessary Formats for Accessible Communication

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) recognizes the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario and aims to implement and enforce standards to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. This includes providing tools necessary for persons with hearing disabilities to be able to attend and/or participate when in an assembly area.

The 2012 International Building Code states, “Each assembly area where audile communications are integral to the use of the space shall have an assistive listening system.”

An assembly area is defined as any space where people gather, whether it’s a boardroom, a banquet hall, or a classroom.

When the AODA was passed its goal was to make Ontario a more accessible province to all people with disabilities by 2025. As part of this act every obligated organization will be required to provide accessible formats of communication to persons with disabilities upon request.

So what does this mean for your company?

First, you must determine by what date your company must be AODA compliant.

Affected Organization Compliance Dates
Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly January 1st, 2014
Designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2015
Designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2017

At this point the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must already be AODA compliant as well as designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees. As stated in the table above designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees will be the next group that must get up to date with their accessibility provisions and lastly private and non-profit organizations.

Assistive Listening Systems or Devices help to reduce background noise and compensate for distance from the sound source and are specifically of great value to persons of varying degrees of hearing loss when present in a space of assembly, be it a government institution (i.e. courtroom) or an organization’s conference room.

ET Group offers the ListenRF, ListenIR, ListenLoop and ListenWiFi systems that provide the flexibility for any person to adapt to a wide range of meetings.

The ListenRF system is great for large and small boardrooms. It is on an FM frequency and allows anyone with a receiver tuned to that frequency within a certain distance to connect to the transmitter.

On the other hand the ListenIR system is most effective for closed spaces where private conversations are held such as courtrooms and private boardrooms. With the ListenIR system only receivers that are in the line of sight of the transmitter will connect so that no one outside the room with a receiver will be able to hear what is being said.

The ListenLoop is a great system for stadiums, schools, auditoriums, places of worship and other place where large groups of people gather. With the ListenLoop you create a virtual boundary where anyone with existing hearing aids that support T-Coil technology will be able to connect.

Lastly the ListenWiFi provides you with all the same benefits of the ListenRF system but it is more secure and can host more channels.

Having an Assistive Listening System may be the law but it is also the right thing to do. Make sure that anyone and everyone that comes to your assembly areas are given the opportunity to have the best experience possible.

Contact the ET Group today to find out which assistive listening system would be best for your organization.

Click the button below to check out the Assisted Listening options that ET Group has available and find out which system will work best for you.

Assisted Listening Systems

5 Collaborative Principles to Guide You on Your Collaborative Journey

Many of the biggest challenges in an organization boil down to ineffective communication. If an organization can communicate better, then it can perform better. Poor communication can be disastrous and effective communication can propel an organization forward.

Getting to a Collaborative “Run” in Your Organization

Better collaboration leads to better organizational performance. If your organization can collaborate better it will perform 3 to 6 times better than it’s competitors. Moving your department or organization through the different stages of collaboration is like learning to crawl, then to walk and finally to run. Taking small steps, developing confidence through increased strength and balance and then, with that confidence and organizational muscle in place, moving to a collaborative run. To get to a collaborative run you must extend outside of your organization to a different group of collaborators; business partners or customers.

Boost Collaboration In Between Your “Most Important Meetings”

A lot more time and work effort is spent in between “Most Important Meetings” than having “Most Important Meetings”. So it stands to reason that if you can enable greater collaboration during the interaction between your team members for the work they do between meetings, you will be significantly accelerating collaboration in your organization.

Moving the Needle on Collaboration in Your Organization

People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more. And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times. Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.

Does Rich Communication accelerate the velocity of collaboration?

Some communications technology tools will help us interact directly with others vs. simply having a passive connection. By identifying and using these tools, we can create stronger relationships between workers in different locations vs. creating isolation and loneliness.

Do Collaboration Technologies lead to loneliness and isolation?

The author of “The Innovation of Loneliness” explains “Loneliness has become the most common ailment of the modern world.” And what is the root cause of this loneliness? Our addiction to technology. Let’s consider which collaboration technologies can lead to loneliness and isolation and what technology allows us to build the best relationships.