Workflow and process issues sent one man to jail twice for the same crime. The system was too slow to update, so he appeared to be guilty of skipping the sentence.
Here’s what happened: When Horace Harding plead guilty to a serious traffic offense, he accepted his fate and served a 30-day sentence in prison. Unfortunately, the system designed to record his compliance with the sentence took several weeks to catch up. Harding was then picked up by the police, and because of the processing delay, could not prove he had already cleared the warrant. The slow pace of bureaucracy sent Horace Harding to jail twice for only one crime.
Barbara Gayle’s expose on the justice system in Jamaica reveals a combination of corruption, incompetence, and tragedy. The case of Horace Harding demonstrates that an inefficient system does not save time, but it can also cause devastating errors. The interplay of court documents, police warrants, arrest records and sentencing requires careful analysis to ensure fairness. One source explained that these issues impact the entire system, noting that:
Three weeks after he filed a suit in the Supreme Court Registry, the file could not be found. After waiting there for more than an hour while the staff searched for it, he left saying that when it was found he would return for the hearing, which was scheduled in chambers for that day. After waiting there for more than an hour while the staff searched for it, he left saying that when it was found he would return for the hearing, which was scheduled in chambers for that day. The file was eventually found but Phipps expressed great displeasure at the system of record keeping at the Supreme Court and asked whether they had ever heard of computers…
It is not unusual for people to turn up at the courthouse requesting information in relation to cases which have been disposed of from as far back as the 1960s, the court official disclosed.
The court official pointed out that such information was not easy to come by because, even if a clerk was assigned to search for a particular file, the clerk was going to report that it was not found because the real truth is that unless the person has the suit number or even the year it was filed or disposed of, then it would be like looking for a needle in a hay stack. The court official said that The Supreme Court was badly in need of a records officer to deal with those files.
The final orders of those old cases should really be scanned into computers and reserved because the Supreme Court is a court of record,” the court official added.
The island nation of Jamaica is ranked as “medium” on the United Nations Human Development Index and receives millions in foreign aid from the United States. Yet even in offices, factories and government offices of highly-developed countries, stories such as these do not sound implausible. Productive, effective procedures are the hallmark of good business and great service. We all know people like Horace Harding who have been treated unfairly by some broken system—criminal justice or otherwise.
A key reason process improvement is hard is because the people most impacted have the least power to make changes. That’s why the best thing you can do is speak up if something isn’t working right. Or, if you’re in charge of a system, ask for feedback. Process improvement consultants start with asking questions and listening carefully. That’s the critical element to improving any system.
If you are concerned about the quality of process in your organization, or if you want to find ways to improve they way you conduct business, contact AccelaWork today. Our team helps companies and non-profits analyze and improve operations for the benefit of all stakeholders.