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FieldWare Buys Uptrust in Justice System Tech Deal

The acquisition, the first by FieldWare, promises to improve communication in the court system and even keep people from spending too much time in jail before trial, executives said. More such deals could follow.

A wooden gavel lying on a wooden surface.
FieldWare has bought Uptrust, combining two companies that sell technology used by public defenders, prosecutors and other courtroom participants.

According to company executives, the acquisition could boost completion rates for court-mandated programs and lead to less time spent in jail for defendants thanks to the types of digital and automated engagement tools that governmental bodies are increasingly using.

Terms were not disclosed.

This marks the first acquisition for FieldWare, Scott Grundberg, the company’s CEO, told Government Technology.

FieldWare launched about two decades ago and sells case management and remote check-in software for the justice system, including community supervision agencies. The company says it has more than 50 state, county and local clients in the U.S.

UpTrust, founded in 2015 and which raised $3.6 million before the acquisition, according to Crunchbase, says its mission is to “keep people out of jail who shouldn’t be there.”

That reflects the growing trend of reforming the cash bail system so, supporters say, technically innocent people don’t have their lives upended by long pretrial detentions.

The company’s platform helps defendants avoid what CEO Jacob Sills called “technical violations” by offering reminders of judicial appointments that, if missed, could result in higher fines or jail time. Those reminders might, for instance, serve to encourage a defendant to arrange transportation to a hearing or to fulfill community service obligations.

“When you miss court, it stinks for everyone,” Sills said.

He said the company’s tech has helped nearly 1 million people attend more than 4.4 million appointments, as well as facilitating more than 5.5 million messages.

“We have our niche, but FieldWare has a larger focus,” Sills said, and that will bring an expansion of Uptrust’s services, which in turn could lead to less strain on the daily and relatively mundane workings of the justice system. “The space still has a long way to go to modernize.”

As Grundberg put it, automation offered by a combined Uptrust and FieldWare can reduce the need for face-to-face visits that can last from 10 to 30 minutes. Over the course of a day or week or month, that time can really add up.

“That’s a lot more time [court workers] are able to focus on much more important issues,” Grundberg said.

The deal will allow FieldWare to expand beyond its core competencies, he added, especially as a new board provides the company with fresh guidance.

He said the company is interested in other acquisitions, and that new products likely will sprout from this particular deal.

While law enforcement receives most of the spotlight and activity when it comes to new technology, the court space is making its own progress in moving away from analog.

A recent example comes from Tyler Technologies, which in early August said it had bought Computing System Innovations, or CSI. Founded in 1987, the Orlando-based firm sells artificial intelligence-based automation, redaction and indexing services for courts, recorders, attorneys and others.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.