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Texting Ability Gets Baltimore Accused to Court, Reduces Crime

Baltimore City Pretrial Services has partnered with vendor Code for America to launch ClientComm, a system reducing incarceration by providing texting capabilities between case managers and those under community supervision.

Baltimore City Pretrial Services already had a high success rate in getting clients to court. In 2016, the average failure to appear rate was 6.32% for more than 3,000 supervised cases.

Yet case managers had to track clients through cumbersome in-person meetings or phone calls. ClientComm arrived in August 2017 allowing managers to remind clients via text messages the day before court.

Case managers can now contact their entire caseload about upcoming court dates in a matter of minutes, eliminating phone tag and locating hard to reach clients.

Those under supervision can text back with process questions or updates on their situations. The failure to appear rate has dropped under ClientComm to its lowest rate ever, 3.9 percent in February despite a doubling of caseloads.

“If our caseloads had doubled without having ClientComm, there’s no way we would have been able to maintain our low rate,” said Baltimore Pretrial Services Executive Director Bob Weisengoff. “That we doubled caseloads and decreased the appearance rate is astounding.”

Baltimore has also seen the re-arrest rate drop dramatically among those awaiting trial. Already low at 3 percent, the rate now stands at 1 percent — a two-thirds reduction that cuts the costly cycle of incarceration.

“I’ve been in pretrial supervision for 30 years and in that time there are two momentous developments that have truly changed the landscape of pretrial services,” Weisengoff said. “The first was getting instant access to criminal history many years ago and the second is ClientComm.”