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Friday, December 02, 2016
Courts - "New court software is so awful it’s getting people wrongly arrested: Problematic Odyssey Case Manager software package is used nationwide"
That is the headline to a story today by Cyrus Farivar of ArsTechnica. The lengthy story begins:
OAKLAND, Calif.—Most pieces of software don’t have the power to get someone arrested—but Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey Case Manager does. This is the case management software that runs on the computers of hundreds and perhaps even thousands of court clerks and judges in county courthouses across the US. (Federal courts use an entirely different system.)ILB: But there is no mention of a software issue in the Marion County, Indiana complaint, only of a two-day delay in a jail release in December, 2014.
Typically, when a judge makes a ruling—for example, issuing or rescinding a warrant—those words said by a judge in court are entered into Odyssey. That information is then relied upon by law enforcement officers to coordinate arrests and releases and to issue court summons. (Most other courts, even if they don’t use Odyssey, use a similar software system from another vendor.)
But, just across the bay from San Francisco, Alameda County's deputy public defender, Jeff Chorney, says that since the county switched from a decades-old computer system to Odyssey in August, dozens of defendants have been wrongly arrested or jailed. Others have even been forced to register as sex offenders unnecessarily. “I understand that with every piece of technology, bugs have to be worked out,” he said, practically exasperated. “But we're not talking about whether people are getting their paychecks on time. We're talking about people being locked in cages, that's what jail is. It's taking a person and locking them in a cage.”
Odyssey is used not only in Alameda County and additionally in 25 of California’s 58 county courts, but also in counties nationwide, from Miami-Dade County, Florida, to Kane County, Illinois. Lawyers in at least three counties in as many states have reported problems nearly identical to Alameda's and have begun formal legal proceedings as a result. Earlier this month, an activist group in Shelby County, Tennessee, alleged similar issues in a recently filed federal civil rights lawsuit. According to the Memphis Daily News, Shelby County Commissioners discussed on Wednesday possible legal action against Tyler Technologies.
Due to the same glitches, inmates in Marion County, Indiana, sued the county sheriff nearly two years ago in federal court over a related issue—that case is still ongoing.
Were the Marion County criminal courts even using Odyssey in 2014? This ILB post from June 17, 2014, is headed "Marion County joins Odyssey Case Management System for criminal cases."