Get Me to the Court on Time

Courts across the country are experiencing increases in the numbers of defendants who fail to appear for their court dates. Jefferson County, Colo., experienced just...
by | December 9, 2007

Courts across the country are experiencing increases in the numbers of defendants who fail to appear for their court dates. Jefferson County, Colo., experienced just such a surge between 2000 and 2003, when it was alarmed to learn its failure-to-appear rate was up 6.8 percent while arrests were up only 2.8 percent. To curb the number of no-shows, the county Criminal Justice Planning Strategic Committee launched a pilot program two years ago to determine the effectiveness of telephone notification in reducing missed court dates. Encouraged by the pilot's initial success, the county adopted the court-notification program and cut its failure-to-appear rate by 52 percent. It also reduced overall jail and court costs. Using volunteers to help make calls, the court not only reminds people of the date and time of their appearance up to one week in advance but answers questions about where they should go in the courthouse, how early they should show up, which documents they should bring and what they should wear. Nearby Arapahoe County adopted the program in November. To learn more, e-mail Tim Schnacke or Mike Jones from Jefferson County's Criminal Justice Planning division.