Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How Courts Can Use Reminders to Reduce Failure to Appear

Franklin County, Kansas Courthouse

Our guest blogger this week is Mr. Ibrahim Aissam, Chief Technology Officer from  He explains the benefits to courts of sending reminders:

Courts and justice agencies around the country struggle with reducing failure-to-appear rates. Although there will probably never be a fail-proof solution to have a 100% appearance rate, technology can certainly help. It’s hard to believe that something as simple as text message reminders consistently reduces FTAs. Sometimes, people just need a nudge to go to court. The following are a few tips for any court considering or planning a reminder program, regardless of the technology used:


SMS is essential, but other channels help as well

80% of the US public immediately checks their phone upon waking. That’s a powerful indicator of how critical SMS is to any reminder program. Saying that, SMS shouldn’t be your only channel. Emails, voicemails, even mailed postcards have been proven to help. Even reminders via Facebook Messenger - with 60% usage in the US  - should be considered.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Advertising agencies tell their clients that users won’t remember your brand until the message has been repeated many times over. The same principle applies to reminding defendants of their court date. We recommend a minimum of four reminders per appearance date. Typically, you’ll want to send a “welcome” reminder as soon as possible, then one a week prior, then three days prior, then one day prior. We’re testing the effectiveness of reminders sent the same day and have seen promising results.

Timing is key

Reminders sent in the morning and early evening have shown faster open rates. It makes sense, considering people are busy with life’s demands during the day.

Content matters

A court date is an important matter, but many people don’t realize the repercussions of missing it unless specifically told. Be clear that it’s important for them to appear. A sample message template could be:

“Hi Jane, you are due to appear in Central Court tomorrow at 9 AM. Address: 123 Court Blvd, Room A. Failure to appear may result in severe consequences.”

Analyze results

A successful reminder program should be data-driven. Ensure the provider you use collects message indicators such as delivery status and compare that with conversion results. Continue iterating on your reminder program based on the data to achieve maximum results.

Ibrahim’s personal note:

I’ve been excited to work with courts to help bring this valuable, but simple, technology to reality. We’ve seen FTA reduction from 12% to past 40% across a variety of use cases. Reminders can be just as effective for many more use cases such as probation, pretrial release, and even collecting payments. If you’re interested in learning more about eCourtDate or simply how to begin a reminder program, you can contact us by e-mail at: 

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