There have been 855 missed court appearances in Cumberland County so far in 2018.
“We had been watching the failure to appear warrant rate rise for the last few years, and it’s a lot of work,” district court administrator Melissa Calvanelli said. “Every time a defendant doesn’t show up, it’s a lot of work for the system as a whole, as well as inconvenient for the defendant.”
The county has spent $30,000 on a new system to send text reminders to defendants. In 2017, the county issued more than 1,200 failure-to-appear warrants.
“We think that more of these failures to appear are not willful on the part of defendants. I’m sure there are some. There are some defendants that are like I’m not coming, but a lot of them are truly misunderstandings, forgotten,” Calvanelli said.
Cumberland County launched the system last fall, but it was voluntary and not many people were signing up. In July, it became mandatory. The county says it’s too early to see if the text system is successful.
The county hopes it will reduce the number of missed court appearances by 10 to 20 percent.