This blog posting and video are part of a series being produced by CSAC to highlight county best practices through our annual Challenge Awards. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The programs being highlighted are recipients of the 2012 awards. The Call for Entries for the 2013 CSAC Challenge Awards has been distributed; the entry deadline is June 28, 2013. 

To review a video about how San Diego County is meeting the challenge, click here.


Imagine a stack of paper 40 stories high. That’s how much paper the San Diego County juvenile justice system was using each year related to court cases. Enter the Justice Electronic Library System (JELS), a collaborative effort of the county’s juvenile justice agencies, technology office and its outsourcing provider Hewlett Packard.  The end result is a state-of-the-art system that saves money, time and resources while improving the juvenile justice system.

The San Diego County Juvenile Court system is a busy place, holding approximately 25,000 hearings a year. Prior to every hearing, a report for each juvenile is provided by the Probation department to the District Attorney, Court and defense, which in turn sort, collate and pull hard files for inclusion in court reports. The County estimates that more than 1 million pages of documents are produced each year. Since a juvenile may stay in the system for years, resulting in numerous hearings, a single case could include more than 100 separate documents and reports.

JELS eliminates the need for all this. The new technology provides the electronic version of a juvenile’s case file – and allows those e-files to be used efficiently in the courtroom. Working with HP, the County IT office developed custom coding and workflows while linking to an existing data hub. Documents can be sent and received electronically without the added work of data entry.  Each stakeholder is now provided with a separate e-case file for each of the more than 15,000 juveniles in the system. Attorneys working in Court have the ability to upload these e-files to an automated e-briefcase, using a laptop in court rather than carrying in reams of paper. The e-files can be accessed anywhere, at any time.

Since JELS was launched in early 2011, deputy district attorneys have appeared at more than 20,000 delinquency court hearings using a laptop – and without paper. The DA has reported attorney productivity is up about 25 percent due to increased mobility and instant access to e-files. Support staff productivity has soared about 50 percent as they no longer have to handle paper or find missing files. As for cost, the initial project was budgeted at $175,000; the county estimates the program is saving about $360,000 annually.

When CSAC went to produce a video on the Justice Electronic Library System, we came across a comprehensive piece developed by HP. Rather than recreate the wheel, CSAC saved its own money, time and resources in working with HP to use their video to tell the JELS story. We thank HP and San Diego County for providing this option and allowing us the ability to spotlight the county’s innovative program.