Getting to Work

By Alison Diana Print this article Print

Gulfport Municipal Court streamlined its infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina destroyed numerous court documents, investing in a digital imaging solution and storing data in multiple sites to prevent such a disastrous loss from ever happening again.

The court notified Syscon on July 7, 2009. On July 8, the vendor started converting the court files from 2006 and moving data from the existing databases to its solution. After providing four weeks of training for 25 court employees, four members of the prosecutors’ office and two judges, Gulfport Municipal Court went live in October 2009.

The solution was customized to meet the court’s terminology and operations. “It was laid out the way we wanted,” Thompson says. “The vendor sat down with our court clerks, collection officers and warrant officers, and designed the court software the way we operate.”

All data is stored on workstations on a seven-day rotation and on redundant servers at the court. To prevent data loss, information is backed up in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Ala., and the administrator does a weekly external backup.

The database lets the court run more smoothly and make better use of court officers’ time, says Thompson. “Now we are docket-specific,” he explains. “DUIs and traffic cases are assigned on a specific date and time. Drug cases are heard on a specific date. That helps us and the judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. We’ve reduced the time spent on continuances.”

Another benefit is that people can pay fines online rather than in court. And police officers have 24/7 access to outstanding warrants, which was previously unavailable when court was closed, Thompson notes. Officers also spend less idle time in court, since the system notifies police of trial dates and times, rather than forcing them to attend arraignments.

“It takes that information right off our docket,” he explains. “One other benefit is that we’re interfacing with the police department so they now have warrant information. They’ve never had warrant information before. After hours, no one was available to say whether or not there was a warrant.”

Today, Thompson is seeking additional funding to complete the digitization of all the records. Once paper records are scanned and verified, the files are shredded according to the court’s standards, which frees up valuable space. By October 2010, Thompson expects all the records to be digitized.
By streamlining its infrastructure, investing in a digital imaging solution and storing data in multiple sites, Gulfport Municipal Court created order from chaos and is prepared for the worst—while fervently hoping that day never comes.

This article was originally published on 2010-01-25
Alison Diana is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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