Joined-up Justice – Exploring the Art of the Possible Through Digital Integration
Police forces, prisons, probation services, prosecution services, courts… the institutions which serve crime and justice services across Europe have much to gain from increased regional integration and digitisation. More openness and collaboration can clearly lead to efficiencies, cost savings and improved citizen experiences. But the road to joined-up justice is not a simple one. Organisations must think smartly and innovate from the ground up, if they are to keep pace with other government departments and the private sector.
A common challenge
Across Europe central and local government departments are challenged by the need to drive greater digital government initiatives enabling digital integration across their own department and the departments with which they collaborate and coordinate. The need to deliver services to citizens online and through digital platforms has never been greater. Firstly, there is centrally mandated pressure to reduce costs and drive efficiency through intelligent IT deployment. Secondly, consumer expectation from digitally-savvy citizens demands that departments innovate and offer consumer-friendly services through mobile devices, the cloud and in real-time.
Crime and justice services in particular have much to gain from embracing digital integration. But the complexity of their ecosystems – multiple, disparate departments – and the sensitive, confidential nature of the information gathered and processed make forward movement a slow march. Across much of Europe, departments delivering crime and justice services to citizens are shackled by bureaucracy and paralysed by fear of public inquest and litigation if they get it wrong.
Autonomous departments with their own budgets, lack of cross-agency funding and no centralised leadership means that departments which collaborate and coordinate on a daily basis are divided by digital walls which seem unlikely to be broken down.
But whilst an end-to-end crime and justice system linked by a single holistic IT system is unlikely, departments can ill afford to ignore the benefits of innovative technology. Nor should they be railroaded into short-term fixes which are not equipped to deliver long-term benefits.
A path to joined-up justice
At Unisys we are seeing many examples of departments within crime and justice improving operations through the innovative deployment of technology.
Police forces are harnessing big data and analytics by deploying case management systems capable of digitally capturing and processing vast quantities of data concerning suspects, people of interest and case evidence. Sophisticated processing systems can analyse this data, drawing significant trends in minutes or hours that could take weeks or months using traditional man power.
BOX OUT Greater Manchester Police deployed Unisys’ information management solution HOLMES to help solve England’s Stepping Hill Hospital murder case. HOLMES was able to clearly document and eliminate more than 7,500 data points such as medical notes and on-duty nurses’ movements. The case ended in successful conviction.
Integration between courts, police and probation services is improving the efficiency of trials. Specifically, document tracking means that evidence can be presented in a timely and organised fashion across departments, improving the chances of successful trial completion. Integrated time management and coordination ensure that witness and defendants are called at the correct time and to the correct court, reducing the huge cost of delayed trials. This also enables more efficient use of police time, with officers spending less time in court waiting rooms, and more time on the beat.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the expanded integration of traditional crime and justice services and other non-traditional, associated agencies – such as charities, community group, social services etc. These can have far-reaching potential way beyond just efficiency or cost saving. As we learn more about crime prevention, digital integration can help address the root causes of crime. For example, we know that 90% of crime is committed by 10% of the population and patterns show that alcohol, drugs and especially mental health issues are underlying causes of that 90%.
The digital integration and partnerships required to ‘join-up’ those external non-justice agencies has to be a future priority.
5 steps to a joined-up digital strategy
When making crucial decisions about technology and digitisation strategy, CIOs and digital leaders should consider a number of key points:
- Make incremental changes. In the absence of a holistic, cross-sector strategy, look closely at the incremental changes you can make across your department. Choose strategic areas where maximum ROI can be delivered and build slowly from the ground up.
- Plan for the future. Pick solutions which offer openness and standardisation. Whilst integration with certain departments might not be possible now, maximise the future potential for integration by choosing solutions that present data in standardised, open formats.
- Consider infrastructure requirements. Ensure that infrastructure can support new services and the necessary data requirements to power those services. For example, many police forces are now gathering huge volumes of video data from body worn police cameras and as video evidence from witnesses. But if back office infrastructure can’t securely store such data, then investment in expensive recording devices, or video gathering platforms will not show ROI.
- Anticipate the needs of citizens. Citizens demand a better service from their government. Victims and witnesses expect access to government to be on a par with their consumer experience – mobile apps, web portals, 24/7 access to services and information are pre-requisites, not exceptions.
- Adopt best practice: With widespread impetus towards digitising government processes, leaders in crime and justice should seek out best practice and learn the lessons from other government departments. In doing this they can get ahead of the digital curve on what citizens want.
Crime and justice departments across Europe are at a severe risk of missing out on the advantages of digital. The consequences of falling to join-up justice though increased digitisation and integration are not just financial. Increasingly, citizens will lose confidence in the public justice system if they don’t see their experiences mirroring those which are commonplace elsewhere in their lives.
Organisations need to seize the initiative and utilise upcoming buying cycles to make progressive and future-proofed decisions that drive digital integration from the ground up and facilitate change in their own organisation.