EATON — Technology is helping the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office do more — with less.
Prosecutor Martin Votel recently introduced a case management system designed specifically for Ohio prosecutor’s offices: Matrix.
“Matrix”, a state-of-the-art case management system, “has revolutionized the way business is done in the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office,” Votel said recently.
“Technology, when properly applied, not only saves public money — it can have an amazing impact on office productivity,” he added.
In August 2015, Votel’s office began using Matrix.
Fast-forward nearly two years, and the office is virtually “paperless,” according to Votel.
“Gone are the mammoth file cabinets which used to house hundreds of paper files, replaced instead by electronic files maintained securely ‘in the cloud.’ These files are available to our prosecutors at work, at home, and in the courtroom via secure wireless connections. Each prosecutor now has our entire caseload at their fingertips 24 hours a day, and the former file room is now the copy room,” he added.
With Matrix, police agencies use a secure web portal to send police reports directly to the prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors review cases on-line and communicate with police officers electronically — no paperwork is sent or received. When charges are appropriate, prosecutors can prepare all charging documents with a few clicks of a mouse. As cases progress through the court system, Matrix is used to exchange discovery with defense attorneys, prepare plea offers, and produce court paperwork (the system “auto-populates,” according to Votel, meaning it automatically enters the correct data into every court document, including case number, criminal code section, defendant name, etc.)
Because Matrix is used for “law enforcement purposes,” the law permitted the initial purchase of the software to be made from the prosecutor’s “Law Enforcement Trust Fund,” Votel said. “This fund contains money seized from drug traffickers prosecuted in Preble County — it does not contain a single cent of taxpayer money. Naturally, the increase in productivity has reduced labor and storage costs — manual tasks such as filing, discovery preparation, document preparation, and the like are no longer required. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, this increase in productivity will generate savings sufficient to cover the annual Matrix licensing fee, with thousands of dollars left over to satisfy other budgetary needs without additional public funding.”
“Over the past dozen years, the annual budget appropriation of the Prosecutor’s Office has been reduced over 10 percent in actual dollars, and personnel has been reduced 25 percent,” Votel said.
The budget appropriation for the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office was $600, 831 in 2004. This year, it is $538,924.62, according to Preble County Auditor data provided by Votel.
“These reductions, though regrettable, are necessary in an era of ever-increasing criminal and civil caseloads and limited resources. The smart use of technology is, in part, responsible for our ability to accomplish more of the public’s business with fewer tax dollars,” Votel said.
He encourages anyone with any questions regarding the technology initiative to call his office at 937-456-8156.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.