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Dallas County Criminal Case Management Adoption Continues to Have Failures

The county commissioners court decided on a Tyler Tech product in 2020, but since the 2022 roll out, the results include longer incarcerations, large extra expenditures and layers of problems within the local criminal justice system.

Hands clasped through a jail cell.
Attorneys working with Dallas County clients say that the new criminal case software has people stuck in the system with little recourse.

The system holds filings on all types of cases — everything from trespassing, theft and drug possession to DUI, aggravated robberies, assault or murder. The problems have affected all those related to criminal case management from courts to law offices to jailers.

Dallas County switched to the new system against the advice of its IT department and with little staff training or IT involvement, causing months of chaos, according to a dozen attorneys, judges, defendants and prosecutors who talked to The Dallas Morning News.

People have been stuck in jail past their release dates, others have been released without going to court, and criminal justice staffers have been scrambling to keep the courts running, they said.

The system is a Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey product, which is used across the U.S.; however, Dallas County has had an unsuccessful launch laden with issues and communication break downs.

Reported issues:

  • Unknown number of inmates held longer than expected
  • All state required reporting hasn’t been met
  • Difficult navigation
  • Slow case number assignments
  • Cases aren’t being placed on court calendars
  • A lack of end-user training
  • System notifications not activated or slow
  • System doesn’t consistently show judge assignments
  • Abrupt system timeouts

Growing costs:

  • 2020 purchase date with a $11.3 million price tag
  • Commissioners decide in January to spend $1.5 million to correct issues
  • $100,000 payout in a civil lawsuit filed by a former jail inmate
  • Unknown amount of time lost across IT staff, legal staff and jail staff

The Dallas County district attorney’s office has struggled with implementation, too. Prosecutors lack sufficient access, attorneys are incorrectly listed on filings, and open cases sometimes show up as “inactive” or “closed,” District Attorney John Creuzot said.

The initial contract, signed in August 2020, stipulated that the software be implemented in 2022, but the project steering committee delayed its launch to May 2023.

As the software implementation approached in early 2023, the IT department urged commissioners to wait, saying more testing was needed before the software, called Odyssey, was ready. Commissioners pushed ahead. In May, the county clerk’s office froze the old database and turned the new system online.

By fall 2023, problems emerged, and a Gartner report showed multiple problems including a clear lack of governance and cooperation.

Dallas County had success implementing Odyssey in its civil courts, so leaders felt Odyssey was a natural choice after a bidding process.

But the rush to implement Odyssey left countless people incarcerated longer than they should have been, officials said.

County Clerk John Warren is the custodian of county records and elected official who led the change to Odyssey. When asked why he did not run the previous system in parallel to the new software, Warren said that would have doubled the work for his staff because they would have had to enter data in two systems. He said that was not a feasible solution.

The court case system isn’t the only system that is having multiple failures; the county payroll has been crippled since April, delaying payments to tens of thousands of vendors and employees by months and leaving some unpaid. The county has allocated more than $15 million to resolve the issue. County officials say that all those affected have since been paid.

Dallas County IT is in an interim situation, as former CIO Melissa Kraft left in July.

Before her departure, Kraft told commissioners and the committee that oversees IT changes in public meetings that she did not believe the county was ready to move forward with the new criminal case management system rollout in May.

(c) 2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by the Tribune Content Agency LLC.