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Photo: The Crime Report

This story was originally featured in the Crime Report published by the  Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

COVID-19 has caused many businesses in the Miami-Dade region to cease operation, but it has not prevented us or the courts from doing our jobs.

At the Miami-Dade County (Florida) State Attorney’s Office, we are doing our part to prevent the virus from spreading while fulfilling our public safety responsibilities.

We partnered with local stakeholders, including the courts, the Clerk’s Office, Corrections, and the Public Defender’s Office and defense bars to develop and execute measures that ensure the wheels of justice keep turning.

Drawing on our prior experience managing other major crises like hurricanes, we transitioned to “mission-critical” status quickly and smoothly.

The transition to virtual systems has not been easy.

Our Leadership Team and Information Systems staff worked long hours to create new processes that allow us to serve the public with innovative resources like “virtual courtrooms” and other tools that help staff remain productive while working remotely.

Though we returned to operational status in June, the virtual pathways we created allow most of our 1,200 employees to work from home on any given day. This enables us to fulfill our responsibilities while protecting our most precious resource, our staff.

Below are some of the changes we have made:

  • New procedures permit us to obtain defendants’ state and national priors, review and assign cases, and electronically file and serve all our legal pleadings, including charging documents, quickly and efficiently.
  • Kiosks at the Juvenile Assessment Center and our main building allow prosecutors to interview victims, witnesses and police officers remotely.
  • A variety of new systems facilitate virtual conferences, meetings, interviews, pre-files, and courtrooms. As part of this mammoth effort, Information Systems configured and distributed an additional 308 laptops to SAO staff, provided the Administrative Office of the Courts with 235 webcams, and gave the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (MDCR) 20 laptops to facilitate their participation in “virtual court.”

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The Crime Report (TCR) is the nation’s only comprehensive news service covering the diverse challenges and issues of 21st century criminal justice in the U.S. and abroad. Staffed by working journalists in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, it is published daily through the year by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. TCR’s prizewinning coverage includes investigative reports by the some of the nation’s most accomplished reporters; analysis, blogs and commentary by leading criminologists, practitioners, law enforcement/corrections professionals, and legal experts; reports on new and cutting-edge research; and daily summaries of the most important criminal justice news, issues and developments covered by the national and international press.

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