The FINANCIAL -- In an effort to take control of a paper-filing
system that generated approximately 1 million pages per year, the San
Diego County Juvenile Justice stakeholders — probation department,
district attorney and public defender —adopted a custom content
management and workflow solution using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.
The juvenile court’s four courtrooms each preside over 25 to 30 calendar matters, including short hearings on detentions, dispositions, arraignments and similar matters, in rapid succession each morning — a total of approximately 25,000 hearings a year. Most of those hearings require a report from the probation office, which typically printed a 10-page report four times, once each for the judge, district attorney, defense attorney and court officer. In addition to the expenses and environmental waste associated with the county’s dependency on paper, it imposed inefficiencies on the attorneys, support staff, and their processes of preparing for and going to hearings.
“We’ve eliminated our share of the 1 million pieces of paper a year with e-files and SharePoint Server 2010,” said Jack Bucci, deputy district attorney and former chief of the juvenile division of the Office of the District Attorney. “That delivers a powerful green message to our own employees and to everyone who does business with our office. It also eliminates the time and cost involved in moving all that paper through the office. It’s a very elegant result of using Microsoft SharePoint.”
The county’s solution included development of the Justice Electronic Library System (JELS), a robust SharePoint Server 2010 site for the juvenile justice system’s 15,000 cases. JELS is organized into three highly secured business centers, one each for district attorneys, probation officers and separate public defender agencies, while a fourth center for the court is planned. According to Microsoft , each business center holds its own set of 15,000 electronic case files — each an automatically created SharePoint subsite — for its stakeholders, making 45,000 electronic case (e-case) files in all. With JELS, the county is achieving its primary goals of eliminating paperwork and the often unproductive distribution processes associated with physical files.
Along with greater productivity, attorneys gained more effectiveness and flexibility, a benefit of JELS’ remote access capabilities. Case review can now be conducted any place at any time where SharePoint Server 2010 and the Internet are accessible. Bucci estimates that this added flexibility he and his attorneys get from JELS makes the professional staff 14 percent more productive, while the government benefits from a 50 percent increase in the productivity of its support staff.
Financially, the county incurred about $175,000 in initial system development and implementation costs. It estimates that during the county’s first full year of using JELS, it could decrease the staff (which it expects to do without any layoffs) that it needs to handle physical case files and other paper by the equivalent of roughly six full-time positions, avoiding about $360,000 in costs annually. Given its expected cost avoidance for the first full year of implementation, the county anticipates an initial ROI of about 100 percent.
“Some people think government can’t be as effective as business,” said Harold Tuck, chief information officer. “But we’re using SharePoint Server 2010 to avoid about $360,000 in costs, which results in a significant ROI. A lot of businesses out there would be happy to see that kind of return.”