County government is often described as a system of "silos," with each department working independently, and not necessarily in a coordinated effort. Some of this is due simply to the manner in which county governments are structured, with elected officials each taking care of their respective areas, separate from departments the County Board oversees.
However, while county government departments may naturally tend toward operating independently, it doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't work to be more integrated. Peoria County recognizes there are efficiencies and greater customer service capacities to be gained when everyone is working toward a common goal. And it has dedicated resources and a process improvement specialist on staff to do just that.
In 2012, Peoria County undertook a major project by selecting Odyssey for its criminal courts and justice software solution. The county used this technology to integrate our court and case management system with modules for civil, criminal, traffic, jail, prosecution and probation. This meant working together across a variety of departments, including the Sheriff's office, State's Attorney, Circuit Clerk, courts, probation and IT, plus an external engagement with the Peoria Police Department and Peoria County Bar Association. In May of 2015, we were recognized with a Tyler Public Sector Excellence Award for our success.
The county's previous system was decentralized, and information sharing often meant printing hard copies of reports or information, and faxing or mailing the documents to another department. This laborious process had potentially harmful consequences if error, delay or mishandling of court evidence occurred.
With the implementation of Odyssey, all authorized departments are now able to access accurate information about a court case or an individual within seconds at their own workstations. These departments were also able to eliminate dual entries for charges, warrants, summonses and subpoenas; information need only be entered once to be readily accessible by many.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial outcomes was the creation of an internal Change Agent Task Force to help reduce the county's dependence on paper by implementing e-filing, increasing e-storage and investigating other electronic opportunities.
Externally, Odyssey strengthens the county's relationship with partner agencies and the general public. We are now able to import traffic citations issued by the largest municipality within our jurisdiction—the City of Peoria—on a daily basis. By mid-year 2017, Peoria County Sheriff deputies and other local agencies will also begin utilizing the ability to create tickets online to be transmitted directly into our case management system. This will eliminate the need for manual input of traffic violations and scanning tickets throughout Peoria County.
Peoria County has focused energy on optimization of the new Odyssey software system. In 2016, approximately $80,000 in cost savings was realized through various process improvements.
From 2015 to 2016, the sheriff's office (jail and records) departments and the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center worked on initiatives to go all-digital. All historical documents were scanned into the system and are now stored electronically, eliminating the need to store and handle paper records. A person's records from the point of intake through release are now 100-percent paperless.
The Circuit Clerk utilized the same Odyssey software to reduce preparation time by eight hours per week for the grand jury process. The Circuit Clerk’s office also implemented an electronic appeals process which significantly reduced the time it takes to prepare a case for the appellate court: a 98-percent reduction in staff effort per appeal.
Beginning December 5, 2016 with the implementation of eFileIL (electronic case filing), attorneys can now file legal documents at any time of day, from their home or office, instead of making a trip to the Circuit Clerk’s office. It also allows for the Circuit Clerk and judicial staff to automate many of their processes.
At the end of 2016, Peoria County implemented a portal that allows law enforcement, attorneys and the public to view and potentially download court documents based on privileges. Attorneys can view their cases and download any documents filed by the opposing attorney in real time. There is also a basic search that shows detailed jailing, hearing and case information. This allows the public to obtain the information they need from home, instead of having to call in for court dates, information, etc.
In 2017, we will see even more automation and efficiency in our judicial departments. By November, Peoria County will have the processes in place to take e-filed documents from attorneys and move them electronically through the judicial system. This includes emailing documents to various parties, thus eliminating the creation and management of paper files.
Also in 2017, we'll see implementation of online systems to allow for electronic guilty pleas in eligible traffic and conservation cases, online payment of the corresponding fees, and the ability for the system to automatically close a case when the balance is paid in full. For example, if you received a speeding ticket in Peoria County, you could go online, plead guilty, pay your fine and have your case closed—all without stepping foot in the Circuit Clerk's office.
Peoria County is committed to taking an innovative approach to technology and process improvement. We are one of only three fully-integrated courts in the country, whereby courts and justice information is available real-time from infraction/arrest through the time a case is closed. And, quite frankly, we’re proud of that! iBi