from the patch-notes-to-be-entered-as-evidence-in-inevitable-civil-lawsuit dept
Software updates are seldom painless. The history of the Windows operating system is littered with stories of computers/programs bricked by auto-update patches and OS iterations. They're not much fun on the IT end either, especially when businesses depend on functioning computers/programs for pretty much everything. An enterprise-level OS upgrade can take days or weeks -- and that's not counting the aftershocks which continue for months after as every interdependent application finds new and exciting ways to clash with the upgraded system software.
Days, weeks, months chewed up by an upgrade. It's horrible, but hey, at least you're still relatively free to step outside periodically and/or exit the building when you've had enough for one day. It could be much much worse.
Take the example of Andrew.
It was Saturday and he was woken up with a start by his mother. There were four officers at the front door and he was about to be arrested.
"I’d only had four hours sleep and I’m only wearing gym shorts,” he recalled.
“I’m thinking, what happened? I was completely confused.”
Unbeknown to his parents, 24-year-old Andrew - not his real name - had recently finished a six-month drug programme after he was caught in possession of marijuana and ecstasy.
Which is why he was so confused. It was his first offence and he had done the course as asked. A judge had then told him the case had been dismissed.
“I did what I was supposed to."
But the court’s new computer system had other ideas and Andrew was put into a police car and driven off to jail.
The computer system is Odyssey, California's new case management software. So far, attempts to integrate it with the existing system have resulted in multiple rejections of the donor. If this had only resulted in a less smoothly-flowing bureaucracy, that would be one thing. Instead, it's ruining people's lives.
The company behind it -- Tyler Technologies -- calls the transition "challenging." That's one way to put it -- a way that only those not adversely affected by the transition can put it. To those on the receiving end of a raft of new case management errors, the transition can more accurately be described as "nightmarish." In addition to the case described above, the upgrade has resulted in wrongful arrests, incorrectly extended sentences, and misdemeanor offenses being reclassified as felonies.
Nothing on this list of problems could be considered a harmless error. The last one on the list could result in job hunters, prospective tenants, parents in custody battles, etc. being kicked to the curb when their moving violations show up in background check systems as serious felonies.
On the plus [?] side, Odyssey's malfunctioning software has also managed to produce a few criminal justice "winners."
Alameda County is not the only area to have struggled with Odyssey. Similar problems have been reported in Tennessee and also in Indiana - where prosecutors have had a perhaps more troubling issue of inmates being mistakenly released early.
The software will continue to be upgraded and lives will be bricked. Those the software has determined need more time served or felonies added to their record are pretty much on their own. Alameda County public defender Brendon Woods is fielding as many cases as he can, but he seems to be one of the only ones interested in assisting victims of a "challenging" system upgrade. The county itself isn't offering anything to these victims and the software company certainly doesn't want to open itself up to liability by admitting any culpability in this debacle.
The criminal justice system barely works. The last thing it needs is software that makes this even worse.