Stephen Ellison

Alameda County Court's New Data System ‘Atrocious'

Failures of $4.5 million upgrade have resulted in wrongful arrests, erroneous jail terms, public defender says

A new multimillion-dollar data system in Alameda County court was supposed to be a money-saver and a life-saver. Now it's being called a disaster.

The public defender says countless people are suffering as a result of the faulty system.

One 24-year-old Fremont man said he was wrongly arrested by police in front of his parents and his neighbors.

"I did everything I'm supposed to, and this happens; I get blindsided," said the man, who did not wish to be identified.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed the man's misdemeanor drug offense case after the man completed a drug treatment program. But that ruling didn't get recorded in the county's new data system, so police came to the man's Fremont home and arrested him.

"Who's responsible for this? Why aren't they taking responsibility to fix it? the man asked.

The Fremont man is not alone, according to Public Defender Brendon Woods. He said ever since the court began using its new Odyssey data system in August, countless defendants have been paying the price.

"When you have people arrested illegally, when you have people who are being held in custody longer than they should, it is just absolutely atrocious," Woods said.

In some cases, drug offenses have been recorded as sex offenses and misdemeanors as felonies, Woods said.

"I can't really describe in words how terrible this is and the devastating impacts this is going to have on so many people who come through the system," he said.

The court's Executive Officer Chad Finke acknowledges the $4.5 million Odyssey system is more cumbersome than they expected, resulting in a slew of problems.

"We don't have the staffing we need to keep up in real time," Finke said. "We're creating mountains of backlogs that we're trying to work through."

Finke offered an apology to the people who have been affected, saying, "we're trying to fix it and trying to learn from each one of these incidents."

But for the Fremont man, sorry doesn't cut it. He said he spent a day in jail, spent $1,500 on bail and suffered humiliation.

"All I have is 'I'm sorry' from the judge, that's it," he said.

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