What began as a discussion in 2004 became a reality in 2013 that eventually won a prestigious award from Government Computer News (GCN) in 2014.
As reported by Cindy Brady, Director, Family Justice Center:
The team – including Judge Roberson, Lynn Rousseau, Cindy Brady Director Family Justice Center, Donna Harris Clerk of Courts office, Sherrie O’Shields, County Sheriff’s Office and Jill Davis who handles arbitration and other District Court Matters – began planning the electronic system in earnest.
The Electronic Protective Order System (EPOS) became a reality in June of 2013. On June 24, 2013, Alamance County became the first in the state to implement an electronic protective order system. Since then, hundreds of protective orders have been applied for electronically. The system is the result of years of work by numerous offices at the state and local level and Tybera.
The problem was threefold. First, women and children who have been victims of domestic violence were forced to travel to numerous locations to secure a protective order. Secondly, there were huge safety concerns for the victim and for law enforcement. Having a large number of law enforcement agencies meant delays in service and enforcement of protective orders. Lastly, victims were unable to take full advantage of available services because of the time commitment needed to complete the protective order process.
In many cases, victims had to forego services in order to make it to the county seat to get their order. Discussion about simplifying the protective order process began in 2004, with the creation of the Family Justice Center as a one-stop service provider for victims of domestic violence. Leaders knew the application process for orders of protection was too tedious and complex, especially for women whose lives were already in turmoil because of violence.
Through the EPOS, victims access the protective order through the Family Justice Center. The testimony of the victim and subsequent order is transmitted via a web based, online system to the Clerk of Court’s office where the documents are processed and forwarded electronically to the District Court Judge. The victim is heard via a webcam. If the order is granted, the judge accepts the order which automatically transmits to the Family Justice Center and printed for the victim, as well as to the Sheriff’s Department for service. The automation not only serves the interest of the victims and law enforcement, but the entire judicial system and the community-at-large.
The objectives of the Electronic Protective Order System are to: 1) Improve victim safety and willingness to complete the protective order process.
2) Decrease the amount of collective time required by the victim, Sheriff’s Office and judicial personnel, to complete the protective order process.
3) Achieve the Family Justice Center mission of providing one-stop domestic violence services to victims.
The development and implementation required the efforts of numerous partners. There was no model for the Electronic Protective Order System so it was up to Greg Paravis, the County’s Systems Manager, and the programming team at NC Administrative Office of the Courts to build the program. Also required was expertise and participation from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, Alamance County Clerk of Court, Chief District Judge for Judicial District 15A, the Court Administrator, as well as the providers of domestic violence services – the Directors of the Family Justice Center and Family Abuse Service, Cindy Brady and Lynn Rousseau, respectively. Each discipline understood the details and steps pertinent to their perspective. Collectively, the “E50B” group.
Cindy Brady, Director Family Justice Center
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