BANGOR – The wheels of justice will slow to a crawl during the month of January when the District Attorney’s Office for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties shuts down to install new computer software.
The shutdown will affect only criminal procedures, according to District Attorney Christopher Almy. Civil litigation will proceed. An assistant clerk in Penobscot County Superior Court said Friday afternoon that “we have a full schedule in January for the days we have a sitting judge.”
Almy said that seven of the state’s eight prosecutors decided more than a year ago to purchase software that will help their offices collect, sort and share data. The district attorney said that once the installation and training period is completed prosecutors, investigators and advocates will be able to catalog and retrieve information more quickly and efficiently.
District attorney’s offices statewide, except Cumberland County, are involved in the program. The Cumberland office installed its own software several years ago, said Almy. He added that installation and training has been staggered by offices around the state with Augusta completing the training period last month. He said the program should be in all seven offices by next summer.
“Assistant district attorneys will be available for bail hearings and to make sure bail is set,” he said Friday afternoon. “However, we will have only two arraignment dates in January as opposed to the usual 10. There will be no grand jury and no criminal trials, but the courts will be able to handle the backlog on all their civil cases.”
Eventually, district attorneys around the state will be able to easily access information on defendants, who may have records in other counties, via computer, according to Almy. That would include possible criminal records, protection from abuse or harassment orders, in addition to information on bail and probation status.
Almy said that the state’s court and corrections systems already had installed new software. Eventually all systems will be integrated, he said. Almy estimated the cost of the program for his office will be more than $100.000, with more than two-thirds of it paid for with federal grants.