New York City is publicizing the success of its pilot program that sends texts to people to remind them of upcoming court appearances, noting that it has cut the failure-to-appear rate among the population studied by 26 percent. In general, thousands of arrest warrants are issued annually for failure to appear, and experts believe that in many cases people either forget about their court date or do not realize the importance of appearing. Officials have found reminder text messages that combine planning advice with warnings of the potential consequences of an absence are the most effective.
The city of South Burlington, Vermont, is piloting a real estate registry system that uses blockchain, the same distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies, as part of a system for recording property ownership. Through a partnership with a blockchain startup, the city aims to develop a more efficient and secure record for real estate transactions than traditional paper processes, as well as to evaluate whether a blockchain-based platform can reduce costs. The project also has the potential to help the state to further its development of the technology for government services.
In an effort to fight drug addiction and help health-care providers know exactly what patients have been prescribed, Nebraska has become the first state to require logging of all dispensed prescription medications in a statewide system. Under the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which originally only tracked the reporting of those drugs most likely to be abused, officials can now monitor all drugs dispensed to a patient with a Nebraska address. The information is stored on secure servers, is encrypted when not being viewed, and users must undergo training to access it. Some observers hope that it will become a mandatory requirement for clinical professionals to check the database before providing or filling prescriptions.
To ensure that its new judges are ready for the courtroom on day one, New York State has for many years sent them to "Judge School," a four-day judicial boot camp held in January each year. The goal is to give the newly appointed jurists some courtroom experience and provide them with the tools to quickly take control of the courtroom. The sessions range from the broader subjects of ethics, courtroom conduct, and financial disclosures, to the narrower points of decision writing, search and seizure rules, domestic violence issues, and orders of protection. Course instructors, often retired judges, also warn against losing their humility and adjusting to always being under scrutiny.
In Canada, young farmers looking for land on which to establish operations, but daunted by the high cost of land, can now get a start through an agricultural “land-matching” pilot project. Under the pilot, owners of unused farmland and eager new farmers are screened, matched, and then provided with support. The pilot, aside from helping to improve the local economy, also creates an opportunity for experienced and retiring farmers to provide informal instruction and mentorship to a new generation.
To better take advantage of a booming tourism economy, Rome is holding a six-week course in “courtesy, hospitality, language, and excellence” for its taxi drivers to help visitors feel more welcome. The course, developed by the Italian capital’s municipal tourism department, aims to help the drivers more effectively provide basic information in a number of languages and understand how social norms and cues are interpreted by other cultures, from nonverbal communication and hand gestures to differing requirements for personal space. Around 750 of Rome’s 6,000 taxi drivers, often the first locals that tourists encounter, have already enrolled.