Uptrust logo

“Missouri jails are full, and the irony is that many of these defendants are not supposed to be in jail in the first place,” said Michael Barrett, the Missouri Public Defender Director.

The State of Missouri Public Defender’s Office and Uptrust, the social justice text messaging communication platform, announced a partnership to reduce the number of Failure to Appear (FTA) incidents, arrest warrants and technical violations in the county. The partnership employs Uptrust’s unique text message service, aiming to reduce wasted taxpayer funds, improving efficiency for the county’s attorneys, and decreasing the number of incarcerations for certain violations. Uptrust and the Public Defender’s Office will first implement the pilot program in five Missouri jurisdictions — St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Troy and Kennett — and hopes for the technology to be realized in the 114 total counties in the State.

“Missouri jails are full, and the irony is that many of these defendants are not supposed to be in jail in the first place,” said Michael Barrett, the Missouri Public Defender Director. “Working with Uptrust to reduce FTAs is timely and cost effective, especially as we look to reduce the $43 million our State spends on subsidizing local jails for the holding of Missouri citizens who are serving pre-trial detention and who have not yet been convicted of anything.”

Under the new partnership, each public defender client in the pilot program will receive text reminders for their court dates and other important legal appointments. Uptrust’s trademarked platform connects public defenders’ offices with defendants via text message to remind them to appear at scheduled legal appointments, most specifically their court hearings.

Local governments spend more than $9 billion on unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and an additional $1 billion issuing and enforcing FTAs. Further, bench warrants have been shown to become expensive and wasteful of both taxpayer and law enforcement’s time and funds.

To date, Uptrust’s messaging system has reduced FTAs by more than 50 percent in some jurisdictions, with 30 percent of users texting back to their attorney, continuing the correspondence. The platform provides a communication and reminder tool similar to many modern dentist or doctor appointment applications. Uptrust’s innovative partnership with the State of Missouri is supported by The Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel and the Missouri Bar Foundation.

“As an advancement in technology, our platform supports the effort to keep those who don’t need to be in jail, out of jail,” said Jacob Sills, founder of Uptrust. “As the pilot progresses in Missouri’s first 5 offices, we hope our technology will continue to make a positive impact across the State, while also saving both taxpayer funds and public defenders’ time.”

Uptrust is a text message-based communication and engagement tool helping defendants arrive at court for their scheduled hearings and other mandatory appointments. By improving the relationship between the criminal justice system and defendants, Uptrust has proved to keep low-income defendants out of jail on bench warrants and technical violations, while also saving attorneys time and reducing the cost to the municipality or county. Uptrust currently is contracted with more than 25 public defender offices around the US, and reaches over 200,000 defendants. Uptrust is a public benefit corporation supported by the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, RFK Human Rights and the Heising-Simons Foundation; it has offices in San Francisco, CA and Northampton, MA. To learn more about Uptrust, visit http://www.Uptrust.co.

Share article on social media or email: