When Tulare County, Calif., criminal justice agencies decided to abandon their JLAN system in pursuit of customized individual systems, they lost the ability to integrate data electronically.
For a time, they returned to sharing information on paper, and then decided that middleware would be the best information-sharing bridge between the new systems. The first item they tackled was initiating a complaint -- from the DA's Office to the Superior Court.
"They made a list of 25 to 30 interfaces that were important to them," said IT Project Manager Alicia Beal (pictured), "and then they prioritized those." Beal said that it was not an easy thing to do, as in addition to technical issues there were challenges to getting everyone to work together. For example, said Beal, the DA's office might call eye color "brown," while the Court would call it "1234" or "auburn." "You have to go through and translate all of that -- kind of like language translation."
The county used Fiorano SOA middleware and a small in-house program to make the connections, enable the translation between systems and allow both agencies to push and pull documents between systems. Currently, the county is doing only one court's single-defendant cases through the system. However, in the next few weeks, Beal said that would expand to multiple courts and multi-defendant cases. After that, the system will expand to include amended court orders, amended motions and more.
"We use the Fiorano software to move things from the D.A. system to the Court system and to the Public Defender system," said Beal. "We're not fully implemented yet, but we have all the parts, so without a lot of additional money we can continue building on what we have." Beal said that's very important given the current economic situation.
The individual systems have workflow built into them, said Beal, so now the goal is to build workflow bridges between the individual systems, integrate the workflow and work with all the vendors to populate the individual systems with the data.
Beal has a few suggestions gleaned from the process thus far:
At first, the county pulled the departments together for quarterly meetings, but as production increases, those meetings will become monthly. Beal said that extracting data from the system will be much simpler, and will free up staff from collecting statistical information for paper reports. That data will also be helpful in spotting problems and responding quickly. Probation, for example, took clerical people who were doing data entry, and put them to work doing statistical analysis. Data entry errors are greatly reduced, as the information is passed electronically rather than being re-keyed each time it goes from one department to another.
"With Fiorano SOA," said Beal, "we are one of only a few counties in the entire state of California to integrate our electronic data system and IT infrastructure. Fiorano SOA has kept us on the cutting-edge of enterprise technology, positioning our justice system as one of the more technologically progressive and forward-thinking. These changes have not only made our lives easier and our jobs more efficient; they have made Tulare County's residents' lives easier as well."