PCMS (Prosecution Case Management System): The Necessity of Digital Prosecution Tools
Across the nation, prosecutor staffing shortages continue to mount. In 2022 alone, states such as New York have seen astounding numbers of prosecutors exiting the profession. The New York Times cited that one-fifth of the legal workforce in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn recently resigned.
“The pandemic-driven challenges have been exacerbated by an added paperwork burden resulting from recent changes to the laws governing discovery—the pre-trial process of evidence-sharing,” said Darcel Clark, Bronx District Attorney in a statement for Reuters.
As prosecutors are still trying to recover from the backlog of cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, their work is more crucial than ever.
Simply put—prosecutors are overworked, overwhelmed, understaffed and underappreciated.
How can counties retain prosecutors when they’re struggling to fill vacancies and simultaneously attempting to distribute growing caseloads evenly?
Technology may be a vital part of the solution. Read on to learn how.
Prosecutor Case Management Systems
Most prosecutors are familiar with Prosecutor Case Management Systems (PCMS)–or as it’s sometimes referred to, Case Management Systems (CMS). PCMS are designed to optimize, organize, and track a prosecutor’s work throughout the entirety of the prosecution process.
The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) describes that an “ideal” PCMS should work to navigate the “functional requirements of a prosecutor’s office.” NDAA also argues that PCMS can increase prosecutors’ efficiency, reduce case timelines and backlogs, enable effective information sharing, increase accuracy, reduce paperwork, and eliminate redundant data entry.
A high-quality PCMS should allow prosecutors to not only archive, but also edit, view, retrieve, and store information. Additionally, it should exchange data within the software and with other necessary parties such as law enforcement and defense attorneys.
CivicCase, CivicEye’s Case Management Software, is a secure, cloud-based platform that allows prosecutors to access their files anytime, anywhere. It’s a centralized hub for managing cases and digital forms. CivicCase converts custom forms into electronic representations. Complex forms easily become interactive, and the software features both flexible form validation and pixel-perfect form rendering to match originals.
Additionally, CivicCase allows each party to access information and forms through a custom portal. This increases ease of access, while also protecting information and expediting the case’s progression.
Digital Evidence Management Systems (DEMS)
Alongside a PCMS, prosecutors can benefit from a Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS). DEMS allows prosecutors to seamlessly share discovery materials with the defense team.
Compared to traditional physical transportation of evidence and documents, DEMS provides a variety of advantages. Software like CivicDocs, CivicEye’s powerful document management and discovery tool, provides audit logs that preserve chain-of-evidence. These audit logs detail which parties accessed each document and file with a time stamp, an IP address, and whether the file was downloaded or tampered with. This feature is a huge benefit for prosecutors, particularly when proving in court that they released the discovery to the defense team.
In addition to audit logs, CivicDocs also features separate login portals, just like CivicCase. This allows law enforcement officials, the defense team, and prosecutors to securely access the necessary information relevant to their role.
Too, CivicDocs’s searchable database saves time and allows users to access any file instantly. Users don’t have to worry about lengthy upload processes for files. CivicDocs allow batch file uploads that still maintain the original file material and folder structures.
Does PCMS Work Alongside Law Enforcement Software?
An important feature to consider is whether a PCMS has the functionality to seamlessly communicate with other software, such as Record Management Systems (RMS) and DEMS.
If a software can integrate alongside law enforcement’s existing RMS and DEMS, law enforcement officials can transfer cases to prosecutor teams with the click of a button. CivicEye’s record management system, CivicRMS, smoothly connects with both CivicDocs and CivicCase.
Curious if CivicDocs or CivicCase can easily share information with your local law enforcement agencies? Click here to get in contact with our team and learn more.
Outdated Software is Hindering Prosecutors
So, beyond the obvious reasons, such as retention and staffing shortages, how is outdated software contributing to prosecutor burnout?
Prosecutors today are forced to do more work with less time. While managing heavy caseloads, many are forced to transport files either physically or through outdated, clunky software.
Much of this outdated software not only requires reentry of the same information repeatedly but also isn’t a “one-stop-shop.” Prosecutors are forced to use these systems in conjunction with other outdated systems. Meanwhile, prosecutors must also mitigate antiquated processes to communicate with law enforcement officials and defense teams.
Without added support, prosecutors will continue to struggle to meet the increasing demands of increasing caseloads and decreasing time.
Outdated Software Can Delay Justice
On top of the frustrations that prosecutors face with antiquated tech, several scholars argue that outdated software negatively impacts victims and defendants, too.
Northwestern University School of Law published a set of essays in 2011 that explains how “While there is an enormous (and important) literature analyzing intentional prosecutorial misconduct, the reality is that most prosecutorial misconduct is accidental. While some of these cases involve unscrupulous prosecutors, far more often the errors are inadvertent because prosecutors are too busy to properly focus on their cases or because they have not received proper guidance from senior lawyers who are terribly overburdened themselves.”
The Center for Justice Research also published studies in 2020 and described that “Research demonstrates that overworked prosecutors have the potential to increase the likelihood of extended case processing time, error, plea bargains, stress-related burnout and turnover. Significant trial delays increase in case processing time and excessive use of plea bargains— which can result in injustice for defendants and victims—are just some of the consequences that could result from overworked prosecutors.”
Overworked prosecutors don’t have the mental or physical capacity to provide the necessary attention to detail that each case deserves. Among the 55,719 criminal cases filed in the United States District Court in 2021, how many could have been filed more efficiently?
How PCMS Can Alleviate Some of Prosecutors’ Burdens
Prosecutors didn’t enter their field because the work is easy. They entered their field because they care about executing justice.
Harvard Law School describes that “Satisfaction in the life of a prosecutor must be derived from the role that he or she plays in a criminal justice system that, when it operates effectively and fairly, expresses the deepest values of our society.”
A modern, easy-to-use PCMS can allow prosecutors to spend less time filling out paperwork and more time serving their local community and positively impacting the criminal justice system.
PCMS can save time, streamline document sharing, and minimize human error. Updated technology can revolutionize prosecutors’ day-to-day workflows and help them focus their attention on what matters.
At CivicEye, we’re here to support the work of prosecutors and law enforcement officials across the country. Interested already? Click below to contact one of our team members.
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