Texting. It’s something most of us do every day.
“We get texting for a haircut, for a doctor’s appointment,” said Diana Brady, program director for pretrial services with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
For the last four months, it’s how Brady has been alerting people who have to go to court.
“Is there something we can do to get the message out to people better than just making a phone call or sending mail?” Brady said.
In February, the sheriff’s office started a new pilot program, using text messages to remind people of upcoming court dates.
“We do it seven days before their court date and one day before their court date,” she said.
The goal is to cut down on people failing to show up for scheduled court dates.
Brady says that failure keeps them in the system longer and causes a backlog for courts and jails.
“More court costs, more fines, more jail time, everything is snowballing,” Brady said.
“You have to pay the police to pick them up and pay the jails to house them,” she said.
Program supervisor Scott Roberts says each ‘failure to appear’ can cost thousands of dollars.
“Now you have two charges stemming from this one potentially minor event,” Roberts said.
The texts are sent for low-level felonies and misdemeanors, according to Brady.
“Criminal trespassing, no driver’s license, simple assault,” Brady listed.
She says so far it seems to be working.
Brady said that prior to the program, about 10% of people with court dates just didn’t show up.
Since the program has started, that number has dropped to 6%.
“That’s huge to us,” Brady said. “That’s very significant.”
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is the only law enforcement agency currently using the text alerts.