Kiosk speeds help to domestic abuse victims

Pierce County, Wash., recently opened a kiosk service for filing temporary protection orders against domestic abusers or potential abusers.

The kiosk PC'at city hall in Gig Harbor, Wash., across Puget Sound from Tacoma'runs Microsoft Windows XP and has a keyboard and printer, said Larry Gezelius, the safety and judicial software development team lead.

The county developed the Web application using the Justice Department's data dictionary for the Extensible Markup Language, Gezelius said. The application generates Adobe Portable Document Format files for the attached printer and sends them electronically to Superior Court, using Secure Sockets Layer encryption.

The app is an extension of the Legal Information Network Exchange (LINX), which the county developed in the 1990s to track and share records among courts, jails and prosecutors.

'Over the years, the trend has been to combine county services in one location,' said Craig Roberts, the county's domestic violence coordinator. 'But this gets the services back out to the community, to somebody living in relative isolation.' The 1,676-square-mile county encompasses Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. 'It could be a two-hour commute from some areas to get to downtown Tacoma to file a protection order,' Roberts said.

Saving time

A victims' advocate from the Gig Harbor municipal court is usually on hand to monitor the kiosk, Roberts said. Petitioners must swear an oath and provide identification just as they would in court.

The online forms take about half an hour to fill out, far less than for paper forms, Gezelius said. The paper forms ask for the same information several times. The electronic forms accept that information once and automatically supply it on all pertinent forms.

The forms go to the Office of the Clerk for review and signing by a judge. Staff members scan the signed copies and return them to the petitioners. The whole process can take as little as an hour from submission to judge's signature, Gezelius said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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